Category Archives: cooking

Cupcakes and Weaponry

A couple of days ago was my “Meet Your Fantasy From the Rock” entry.  It included some answers that I didn’t bother to elaborate on – although do you really need me to tell you why ‘defenestrate’ is such an awesome word?  (Matthew Daniels knows what I’m talking about.)

There are another couple other things about me that I’ll share today: I like weapons and I like baking.

Swords are my favourite, and I actually have a few of my own.  Vaughn uses a sword in The Six Elemental, and there’s a sword-wielding character in Honour (found in Fantasy From the Rock).  I like swords so much that while writing a story about modern-day assassins I decided to have a character who uses a sword (even though it’s not practical at all).  Honestly, I’d find a way to put swords into a romance novel if I could. Continue reading Cupcakes and Weaponry

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A little (gluten free) fall treat

So despite the gorgeous sunshine we are still having, it has come time for me to accept that it is, in fact, autumn. I even wore a sweater this morning because it was getting a bit blustery! With thanksgiving just around the corner for Canadians, I figured I’d go through a few of my favorite recipes a week in advance.

I’ve posted photos before of my cooked chicken. This time however, we get a step-by-step of how it comes out so tender even without the skin left on. I know there are people out there completely appalled by that, but I really can’t stand any amount of fat left on meat. It’s just one of those sensations that turns my stomach. In case it doesn’t go without saying, make sure your chicken is well thawed at this point. Mine was tiny and had been in the fridge since the night before, then had been transferred to a pan of cold water in the morning (you can also fill up your sink to do this).

I spend a good deal of time cleaning up the chicken. If your chicken comes with organs included (usually in a bag in the stomach cavity), remove those and rinse the whole chicken in cold water, inside and out. Set the organs aside if you have them, and you can get to work on the chicken.

You can skip this step if you want the skin left on, and skip straight to dressing it up and preparing the stuffing. By all means, keep the skin on. I’m a bit of an oddball in this, but if there are others who really don’t like soggy chicken skin this is for them. I usually start near the chicken bum, because it is easier to get at the loose skin there. I go up along the back then, and down the next side. Drumsticks are left for last, and are the most difficult to remove, requiring a little bit of muscle to tug the skin off. (Gross, I know right?)

When you finish off getting the skin off, Chicken Little gets another bath. He then ends up in his bed. Usually, I would recommend a roaster, but I’m a poor writer and university student, so we are using a casserole dish for our yummy chicken goodness.

If you do have the tools available, pop in a wire cooking rack in the bottom of the roaster. This will prevent the chicken from sticking its butt to the bottom of the pot and being a sook when you try to take him out. I’ve never had much of a problem skipping this step (again, not spending $9.99 on a rack  when I can spend $9.99 and get a chicken) but I do know this has been a problem for other people roasting chickens.

If you want, you can have this dressing recipe made up the night before, and have it ready to go right in the chicken. Depending on how big of a chicken I have (and this is a small-ish one) I only use one or two slices of gluten free bread. Today, it’s Glutino’s Genius brand. Gluten free bread crumbles very easily, so I just crumble the pieces up with my bare hands. In goes a bit of butter (let’s say two tablespoons), a helping of savoury (let’s say two teaspoons), some fresh chopped chives (judge based on the size of your chicken, but we used 4 shoots), a little powdered garlic (barely a full teaspoon, you don’t want it too garlic-y!) and a little thyme (we are using fresh silver thyme from our garden). All this should be well mixed, and to add a little moisture to the chicken, add a little chicken broth or water. Only a small splash is needed to moisten the mix. I pack my stuffing in the chicken as much as possible at this point, but there is another school of thought that says stuffing should only be packed loosely to ensure proper cooking. If any dressing is left over, that gets popped in the oven in a small dish with the chicken (though it won’t need so long in the oven or it will burn). After all, who can say no to extra dressing?

Once the dressing is in Chicken Little’s belly, it’s time to put his fancy clothes on. He gets oiled up (or buttered up depending on what you prefer), and gets a sprinkling of thyme and savoury. A small amount of salt and a quick crack of pepper will be nice at this point too. Poke a couple rings of onion on him too (I used a little less than a half of one medium onion). As well, pour half a cup of chicken broth or water in with him. If you’ve kept the chicken organs, now is the time to put them in the bottom of the dish. This is more important if you use water, because it will add a little more flavour to whatever water is left at the end of the cooking and you will have a nicer gravy (if you decide to make gravy, that is).

Chicken Little is now ready for his nice, hot nap. Have the stove pre-heated to 450 degrees, and poke his little butt in their. Don’t forget to tuck him in though! Cover him with a lid if you have a roaster, and if you’re going the struggling writer route, make him nice and snuggly in tin foil (make sure it’s crimped around the edges of your dish). It will take ~2-3 hours to cook depending on the size of your chicken (if he’s not Chicken Little, but Chicken Super Large, allow extra time for him to get his groove on in the oven.)

We can now turn our attention to the veggies. I have my pot boiling at this point, and if we were going the Jiggs Dinner route, I’d have had my salt beef soaked overnight, rinsed, then put in the pot (this adds all the seasoning you would need). We aren’t though, because I have issues with the fat on cheap salt beef, and I didn’t want to spring $20 for the really good stuff (but it would have been sooooo good.)

Get all your veggies cut up and peeled. Today, we have a tonne of carrots, potato and a turnip. Keep everything but the turnip whole, and cut the turnip into semi-circles about an inch thick. All of this normally goes into a large stock pot with the salt beef, but last time I made this my very cheap stock pot sprung a hole and we got back to the poor writer and student argument. I’m here to teach you to cook, not break the bank.

Everything is popped in the pot to boil away. If you haven’t used salt beef, pop in a couple pinches of salt to bring out the flavour in your veggies. Now you can get started on your pie.

Pop out some gluten free flour. I keep Kingsmill bread mix on hand almost all the time, and use half a pouch and a cup of white rice flour in my pie crust. A different blend of flour can be used as well, and when my father make this recipe he usually adds coconut flour in, which gives the crust a light, sweet taste. I also throw in a teaspoon of baking powder and two tablespoons of white vinegar and two tablespoons of vanilla extract, a cup of brown sugar and a half cup of white sugar. The recipe also requires a cup of shortening (we use Crisco). All of this gets mixed together by hand or by a fork (I find a mixer just makes this too messy). Gluten free flour is a pain to work with, so rather than roll it out (you can, between two sheets of wax paper and then carefully place your crust), I simply press my dough into place, taking care that it is as even as possible.

When the flour is all in place, use a fork to poke a couple holes in the bottom of the crust. This prevents the dough from bubbling while it cooks pre-filling. You’ll want to put tinfoil around the edges of the crust at this point to prevent them from burning. Pop it on a rack below the chicken for ten minutes and let it bake up a little.

Get your filling ready now. Be very careful if you are doing this gluten free that the filling you are using is gluten free. E.D. Smith is one of the only brands of filling we can get around here, but there is a catch. Their pumpkin pie filling does contain gluten, however their tins of pure pumpkin do not. One tin of pure pumpkin will be perfect for this recipe.

In a bowl, combine your tin of pure pumpkin with a few spices, two eggs, 3/4 cup of evaporated milk. I (mostly) followed the recipe for filling on the inside of the pure pumpkin label. Ginger is wonderful in the filling, a well as cinnamon and ground cloves. A teaspoon or two of each will do just fine. All are strong spices, but cloves are especially so, so limit this to a teaspoon or less if you do add it at all.

Once the pie filling is prepared and your crust is done with the oven, you can ladle the pie filling into the dish (but take off that shiny tinfoil crust guard first, and pop it back on when the pie is filled). This can go right into the oven now.

When your chicken has been in the oven for an hour and a half (or more if it’s much larger), take it out and remove the tin foil. You may need to add a little extra water or broth at this point, and I usually add a small amount more of oil or butter to crisp up the skin/ exposed chicken flesh. Chicken Little is a bit vain and will take kindly to this. With fall in full swing, he’s lost his tan, so of course he doesn’t mind that you’d like to get him back to his summer glow. At this point, we are only looking to achieve a Jersey Shore level of bronze if the chicken has the skin left on. If not, we will settle for a healthier looking “I got this tan while hiking and applying just enough low-level sun screen” shade.

With your chicken and pie back in the oven you can relax for a half hour. You can begin to take up your  veggies, but do not throw out the water in your veggie pot if you want to make gravy. This is the part where I get my manly helpers involved, and they get to work serving this up (and cutting up salt beef if you’ve cooked it).

When Chicken Little has browned up a little, take him out, but leave the oven on for the pie. I got one of my helpers to carve up the chicken and plate it while I started on gravy, right in the chicken pan (or casserole dish). Mix a small amount of your veggie water and rice flour together in a cup until it is a homogenous white fluid, then add that to the chicken pan. Your chicken organs should be left in the pan, as well as any onions that have fallen off Chicken Little. All I use to darken my gravy is VH soy sauce, as most gravy browner I have seen contains gluten. Many soy sauces do as well, but VH is a safe choice.

Add soy sauce and a little of the veggie water to your taste. This is not an exact science, as the amount of water or broth that has boiled off will not be the same every time. You want a semi-thick sauce that isn’t too dark though, so try to gauge accordingly.

Your guests or helpers should have somehow gotten the food on their plates by now, and your gravy should be ready, so by all means go get your own food and sit down to eat. By the time you’re done your plate, take the pie out of the oven to cool. If your fancy self has an extra cooling rack floating around, put your pie on their, you awesome thing. Otherwise, just pop it in the microwave (clearly do not turn the microwave on though). This is a little trick my daddy taught me. He is the pie-making king, and while I got through this pie without calling him, the pie recipe in this post is a culmination of many phone calls that he has spent coaching me through my kitchen. Without him, I would probably be clueless.

This seems like an appropriate time for me to simply show you the finished product. I’m fairly confident that most people can serve pie without instructions, but by all means, berate me in the comments if you’d like me to hold your hand through this step 😉 . I apologize in advance that I dropped the ball on this one.

Next Monday, let’s remember what we’re thankful for. Today I’m thankful the sky didn’t fall and that Chicken Little was such a good sport about getting eaten. Joking aside though, I’m thankful for the friends I have here today, and thankful for my favourite little dinner guest. Seriously, when two of your favourite people are combined into one little person, almost nothing can top that.

Much love to everyone celebrating Thanksgiving on Monday, love to those celebrating next month south of the border, and love to those that don’t celebrate Thanksgiving at all.

Lemon Lime Gelato

Newfoundland’s summer heatwave has had me reminiscing lately about happy times in warmer places. One of those happy times happens to be my trip to Italy from a few years back, and with the memories comes the crazy craving for Italian food that only gelato can satisfy in this heat.

After doing a bit of searching, the sister and I settled on using this Food Network recipe for our own batch of gelato. We stuck with the measurements for milk and sugar, but veered off course when it came to the lemon zest and juice. I wanted something a little sweeter, but still in keeping with Italy’s famous citrus exports. We decided to go with a mixture of lemon and lime, using two Mexican limes (the majority of the juice) and one lemon. We used the zest from these three fruits, as well as an extra lemon to give the gelato the divine bursts of flavour the recipe called for, but we used about half a tablespoon more when all was said and done.

I wasn’t disappointed with our results. We got beautiful, creamy gelato, and while I would recommend leaving the gelato to freeze overnight after it has been churned, ours was lovely (though softer) after just an hour.

My camera is more closely related to a potato than any technology, so this shot by no means captures the vibrance of the zest.
My sister (unwillingly) captured on camera setting up the ice cream maker. This girl’s got her priorities straight. This was the top item on her Christmas list a few years back. It has never failed us.
All ingredients added in and whipped up, the gelato mixture is thick, creamy and smooth. Oh, and super fragrant. The entire kitchen smelled sweet and citrusy.
Getting a little mixing action on the go. We let ours go for about 25 minutes when all was said an done.
Unfortunately, our blast of summer heat meant the mixing bowl wasn’t quite cold enough, so instead of into gelato cups, our mix went straight into the freezer.
I broke out the better camera for this shot. As good as the picture looks, the gelato managed to be better. A little bite of heaven!

Happy eats!

Recent Foodie Diary!

Hey gang! Today I’ve got a pretty intense food post for everyone. I’m going to include a few things I’ve made the past week or two and a really great meal I had at local wonder India Gate.

First off, I finally made an omelette again when I visited Mum and Dad last weekend. The stove Matt and I have is a little finicky, so it’s tricky to not ruin anything on the stove. Even on the lowest setting, butter burns in seconds. It’s one of the reasons I started making pancakes in muffin pans. My oh-so-good combo was simple, fresh Newfoundland eggs, small breakfast sausages leftover from a barbecue the night before, cut up and paired with melted cheese and onions. Getting breakfast on the go can get boring, so this was a treat!

Yesterday night, after a day of studying and watching Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares for hours on Netflix, I had the urge to treat myself to some home cooking. Broccoli and beef stew was simple to make. As per Mr. Ramsay’s instructions, I boiled broccoli in water, keeping the water aside while I blended the broccoli. Then I went a little aside from Ramsay’s simple recipe, adding the broccoli mash to the water, adding in some thyme, salt, ground pepper as well as some beef cubes I had been grilling up. I panfried them with blended Zuma tomatoes and finely chopped onion so they added a bit more flavour to the broccoli soup. I also added a splash of milk to thicken up the mixture. It turned out fabulously.

As you can see, the beef made the soup less green and more broth-y. It was lovely. It also cost less than $10 to make a massive amount. Would have been good for a few days if Matt hadn’t gobbled up so much.

I also made some chicken korma after an amazing dinner at India Gate, which I’ll get to at the end of this post. Of course, it wasn’t anything near as good as it was authentically made, but it was still so, so good.

Now, what my family had at India Gate was far more exciting than some korma on a bed of rice. The setting itself is romantic, beautiful Indian wood carvings, paintings of Indian women playing instruments, all of it authentic and beautiful. Below is a little sample of what we ordered. There were quite a few of us, so we ordered starters and several mains to share. A similar meal could be had at their wonderful lunch buffet. Best of all? The majority of their food, except for bread, is gluten free. From left to right, as best as I can remember what we had: Rice Pillaw, Lamb Vindaloo, Tandoori Chicken, Baigan Masala, and lastly Chicken Madras. Our starters had consisted of papadums with a sweet mango chutney and a spicy carrot pickle, and a platter they call Gate Special Snacks, consisting of samosas (my first time having some of these babies, only place they’ve been gluten free!), veg pakora, onions bhajia (my sister’s favourite thing on the planet) and chicken pakors, all of which came out with some raita (a light yogurt dip to cool down the spicy stuff) . All of it was amazing, even the lamb, which I’m not generally a fan of.

The Tandoori chicken was possibly my favourite, closely followed up by the chicken korma. This coming from someone who loves her red meat nonetheless!

I had some lovely fresh mango drink with my dinner. It was absolutely fragrant and delicious, and to end the night, while the rest of the gang had a rice pudding called kheer, I had some mango kulfi, an amazing mango ice cream they make in house. It couldn’t have been tastier.

This stuff is to die for. Absolutely amazing!

Overall, India Gate was a ten out of ten. After our dinner, the owner even came out to talk to our table and thank us for coming by. It was recently updated, so even the decor in the bathrooms was posh and sleek. It’s been years since I’ve been down, primarily because the dinner service is a little bit pricey (but worth it 100%). For eight of us, we ended up with a bill just under $400. Not exactly bad for dessert, starters and mains as well as drinks, but a bit too much for my student budget. Luckily their lunchtime buffet is cheaper  (under $20 for all you can eat). The buffet runs from 11:30am- 2pm Monday through Friday, and as most of what they cook is gluten free, the danger of buffets for celiac and gluten intolerant individuals is almost completely non-existent. They also offer fine dining Monday through Sunday from 5pm-10:30pm. If you plan to go, book in advance for either service, because they are a bustling little spot! I honestly can’t wait to go back.

Disclaimer: I receive absolutely no compensation for reviews of any restaurant. All reviews are my honest opinions.

Good Friday with Family and Friends

Ellen Curtis
Ellen Curtis

Today started early for the Curtis-LeDrew household. Matt, as usual, slept in and was greeted when he woke up by chocolate chip pancake muffins. I don’t treat him often, but he had requested some chocolate chips ones a while back, and he had a bit of a drive ahead of him in the morning and needed something mostly portable to eat while he was on the road.

We headed out, he dropped me at my parents’ and he started the trek to his parents’ house about an hour and a half away in Norman’s Cove. Good stuff.

It’s been a quiet morning, drawing up plans for a ramp to my parents’ shed (read barn, the thing is two stories tall and has a huge workstation and enough room for two motorcycles) and getting the fixings together for some cod-au-gratin. We keep it pretty traditional for Good Friday despite not being super religious.

So, lunch is in an hour and after that we are making some earthy easter eggs. All we have over here is brown eggs, so we’re trying out these Martha Stewart speckled Easter eggs. Mum’s big into bugs as a result of working as an illustrator for a biology professor for a number of years, so the house is already decorated with complementary greens, oranges and browns, as well as some earth-themed decor. These will match great, and can be incorporated into the decor for the spring and summer seasons.

Later, when Matt gets back in and things clue up over here, we’re getting together with Nikki and Alex again and having a little get together of our own. Ordering in some pizza if Pizza Delight is open today (yay for gluten free pizza and garlic bread!) and having a movie night. It will probably be the last night Matt and I get out for the next few weeks, as we have exams and work steady up until Sci-Fi on the Rock starts.

Overall, we take Good Friday in a less traditional sense, but still one that is very dear to me. We use the time for being with the people who are most important to us and to reflect on what we’re thankful for. I hope that all your family and friends do the same today! You don’t need to be religious to spend time with your family and friends (and what better excuse to get together than a paid holiday!). Much love to everyone!

Gluten Free Pancake Muffins

As promised, today I’m bringing you guys another one of my food diaries. Pancake day was a couple weeks back, so with a little left over pancake mix I concocted a breakfast treat for Matt and I. Not so nutritious, but definitely delicious. I hate cooking pancakes normally, because my stovetop is very old and very finicky, leaving them burnt on a low setting within seconds. This will definitely be a favourite from now on though. Should work with any pancake mix, or recipe. I used a generic Bulk Barn gluten-free pancake mix and followed the recipe, but it could easily be modified to suit your favourite pancakes. On top of the normal mix, I added in maple syrup to the mix (only a drizzle on top of each muffin once they were in the liners) and baked them at 300 degrees until I could poke a toothpick in the centres and come away clean. The pros of this pancake method left me with fluffy pancakes that absorbed the syrup easily and did not burn or brown (just how I like them). Cons? One pan just wasn’t enough! They were so easy to make, cooked really well and didn’t require the constant attention of standing over a stove that pancakes take, and they were portable! The perfect breakfast snack on the go.

Valentine Cuppycakes!

20120220-082839.jpg So I know I’m a bit late, but I wanted to share these with the world (or at least the small portion of the world that follows my blog).

Ellen made these for us to Valentine’s Day, proving that her skills and creativity go far, far beyond that of the written word.

I don’t know how she’s so great, she just is.

She even tried to make me Ninja Turtle cupcakes. It didn’t work, but they were still the right colors! It was a theme!

Loves my Ellen.

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Never Look Back
Matthew LeDrew