Sunday, 31 July 2011


The angst began on a gentle summer eve, my birthday dinner. A fun-filled, lavish affair with worldly pleasures aplenty. Since that night, however, I have been plagued by one concern: my life of excess and its global impact. More specifically, can I continue to live a rich and hedonistic lifestyle, and still feel good about myself?
Here’s how it happened. In the midst of the merry making, my cousin casually snatched the bottle of wine my husband I were sharing. She proceeded to drain the last bit into her glass. As she still had wine left in her own bottle, I assumed she’d gotten confused, so I informed her, “Sarah, that’s our bottle.” To which she replied, “Oh, I see. You don’t like to share.” 
Now, the fact that it was my birthday notwithstanding, this little comment stung. It has thrown me into utter crisis, rendering me unable to enjoy even the most basic of material pleasures. It obviously touched on some inner turmoil of which, until that night, I had been blissfully unaware. How do I know how much I’m allowed? 
So I did the only thing a rational, mentally healthy person would do. I made a detailed list proving my selflessness. The list contained charities to which I donate, international foster children I support, gifts I’ve purchased, everything I do for my husband-my kids- their friends- my dog, people I’ve fed, hospital visits I’ve made, world crisis’ I’ve reached out to in my own limited way. And the ultimate “do-gooder” clincher; door to door canvassing. 
Sacrifice upon sacrifice. 
  I proudly presented the list to my therapist. She was not impressed. 
Throw out the list she said. We don’t place value on ourselves by listing our charitable contributions. So, throw out the list I did. I would need to tackle the dilemma in a different way.
This is easier said than done, for I have the added complication of menopause, supposedly a time to shake off the shackles of martyrdom. I am washing estrogen, the caretaker hormone, down the drain at a startling rate, and with it my need to sacrifice. How to reconcile a life of generousity with my menopausal goal of defining boundaries, exerting my needs? What about time alone, finding pleasure in daily existence? Will all this have to go? Will every waking moment be spent visiting widows and invalids? Will my own life become completely inconsequential? Where will “I” start and “they”, all these needy people, end? 
And what about my cousin’s need for yet more wine. Will this too become my responsibility? 
I then came up with a brilliant solution, a win- win. I decided I would perform a good deed per day. This way I get all that giving stuff over with and can go on in my self-interested way; guilt free. I consulted some wise and wonderful women in my life about this plan. They said it sounded like a good idea and could be fun. I explained that it may be a good idea but the point was it wasn’t supposed to be fun. It was supposed to hurt, to be a painful sacrifice or else it doesn’t count. 
Catherine replied, “Oh, the hair shirt.” 
Yeah, I thought. That sounds right. 
So, am I giving to give or just to punish myself in some “hair-shirt sort- of way”? My friend Sue wants me to research this further. This is a woman who can accomplish more in one hour than I can in a well planned month. I thought she knew everything. Turns out this is a subject that stumps her. 
“When are you being generous and when are you just being a doormat?” she asked.
Beats me.
“Keep writing,” she told me, “and when you figure it out, let me know.” 
Shirley, (the kind of woman who waves her optimism like a golden wand with blazing sun atop), summarized. “You give when it feels good.”
“That’s the only time?”  I asked, aghast.
“Yep.” She said.
I’m now finding that generousity sort of erupts spontaneously, organically. I don’t know if I’m always a generous person but I am given to acts of generousity; fits if you will. 
Enter, again, my therapist. If you can give without resentment, she says, fine. No one wants your resentment. 
AND... it’s okay to give to myself. In fact, she says, it’s imperative. Because only then can I truly give to others.
  What a relief. It’s the first time I’ve relaxed since my birthday. I think today’s good deed may involve a little gift to myself. A bottle of wine perhaps? 
As a result of all this pathetic rumination, the African Dinner book club was born. It seemed a perfect combo of my love of friends, love of cooking and an urgent midlife desire to contribute a little something. Here, we have a night of African food, in solidarity with the women we were hoping to help.  I had a display set out describing the plight of women in Chad and Darfur. And in what unexpectedly turned out to be a brilliant maneuver, I had my two adorable little nieces in charge of taking the donations. What I didn’t foresee was that my nieces allowed no one to enter the party until they had handed over a sizable donation. Any attempt to forestall the giving was met with tears and contempt by my young humanitarians. Anyway, I can only hope the women of Chad and Darfur benefited by my nieces’ enthusiasm and adorability. 
I am now completely in love with African food, though admittedly my knowledge is limited to North Africa. After many hours researching the net, here is the menu I adapted. (stayed in next post!!) 

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Can It Get Any Better Than This?

Could someone please explain how I have managed until now without the Organic Box?! How outrageously deficient my life has been? How void of goodness!? I have just received my very first shipment and I must say...elation.  A big, wonderful box of  lively, "just jumped out of the garden" fruits and veggies. They sprang toward me as though we have been separated for far too long. Which of course we have!
 And the best part? (Well, ok, so far it's all the best part). This is living food delivered right to your door! The price seems pretty darn reasonable to me, especially when I consider all the extra "goodies" I assemble into my cart on a regular grocery store trip.
The greens are truly green. Vivid. And not from ramped up chemicals and force growing. I'm no chemist, butI'm thinking it's from that elusive healing agent of yore, chlorophyll!
Shout out to my fabulous nature loving friend Cheryl C, for this head's up.

Friday, 22 July 2011

My New Love

Zippy Lime Rice Photo


You know what? As customary and sustaining as it is, plain old boring rice is just that. Plain. Old. Boring. Am I right? (Think Ford Focus). I mean obviously there are times when nothing but steamed white rice will do; such as when you prepare twenty different spicy sauces for your homemade, authentic Asian cuisine. Which I’m sure is a regular occurrence..….
So! Try my new, fun, zipped up rice! (Think Honda CRZ). When the days are hot and so is the grill, when carnivorous needs assert themselves a little too often, this is an ultra refreshing side dish. Lovely paired with all sorts of barbecued meats, poultry and fish. It tastes luxurious, and yet you can feel saint-like while munching away. Your body and soul will trill, “Thanks Self! That was delicious!”

(see previous post for recipe)

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Lime Rice

2:37 am my clock says. So as I'm longing to get to my addicting and profound book, "Let the Great World Spin", I will post recipe, sans pic. (just for Mar).

Night Night my blogger buds,

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup basmati rice (or a mixed brown and wild rice works beautifully also)
1 small onion, minced
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups water
1 teaspoon sea salt
Zest from 1 lemon
Juice from 2 limes
4 cups baby spinach
2 cups cilantro, coarsely chopped 
6 scallions
In medium size heavy sauce pot, heat oil. Add rice and cook, stirring often, until slightly browned with a nutty aroma. Add onion, brown for about two minutes. Add garlic, cook until softened, about 1 minute.
Add water, salt, lemon zest and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer with a tight fitting lid until water is absorbed and rice is tender, about 20 minutes (40 minutes if using brown rice). Do not stir. 
Remove from heat, fluff with fork and gently stir in lime juice, baby spinach, cilantro and scallions. (Cilantro and scallions can be served on the side if your family finds them objectionable, as various members of mine do.)

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Let Me Count the Ways


            All my good cookbooks seem to have a recipe for “the best roast chicken”. But really, how many roast chicken recipes does one need? Besides, what used to be an easy and relaxing dinner to prepare, has become an exercise in confused hesitation. I tend to lay out hundreds of methods in front of me (well, at least five) and mix them all up together. This actually leaves me with no method at all.
            So, I have developed two (which morphed into three) schools of thought. Buy either a large roaster, season it any darn way you want, and stick it in a 450F oven for 20minutes, then reduce heat to 350F oven. Should take about 20 minutes per pound. Remove chicken from pan and tent loosely with foil. Let sit for ½ hour to 45 minutes. Meanshtvile, skim fat from drippings, add chicken broth, herbs and lemon zest and reduce, scraping stuck bits. Add lemon juice or white wine and reduce a bit more. (If using white wine, you could omit the lemon zest.)
            OR--- plan your chicken two days in advance. If you have enough time to follow a four page recipe get out Judy Rodger’s Zuni Café cookbook. and prepare the Zuni Café Roast Chicken with Bread Salad. It is the most deliriously divine chicken dish I have ever tasted.
            OR-- and this I think is the best, follow my dumbed down version of the heavenly Zuni Chicken. This way, you can have fabulous poultry and a life.
            This is better suited to my attention span.
So there, I do have a Roast Chicken recipe. Or two. Just what you need, more roast chicken recipes.

Dishevelled CHEF’S NOT Quite Zuni Chicken

1 small fryer 2 ½ to 3 ½ pounds
¾ teaspoon salt per pound chicken
Lots of pepper
Sage, rosemary, thyme or combination thereof (a nice poultry seasoning works well)

One to two days before roasting, wash and dry chicken well. Season the chicken with salt, pepper and whatever herbs you prefer. Cover loosely with wax paper and refrigerate.
When ready to roast, preheat oven to 475 degrees. Heat whatever roasting pan you choose to use (should be heavy and oven proof, and not much larger than chicken). After preheating, place chicken in the pan. Roast for about an hour, give or take 10 minutes depending on size of bird.
Remove chicken from roasting pan and place on a plate (chicken should be dark brown and crispy and the leg should be able to be jiggled a bit). Meanwhile, pour excess fat from roasting pan. To remaining juices add a bit of white wine, chicken broth or just water (a few tablespoons are all you need) and bring to simmer over stove. Slash the chicken above thighs and breasts and dump all accumulated juices from chicken and plate into the simmering pan. Keep warm.
After chicken has rested for about 10 minutes, cut into quarters, placing any accumulated juices into pan juices. Set atop the Zuni Bread Salad and pour remaining pan juices over all.


Loaf of heavy, chewy bread (about a pound worth)
Olive oil for bread
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
6 garlic cloves, minced
Sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon dried cranberries
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon warm water
¼ cup pine nuts (toasted)
8 ounces mixed greens (arugula, baby spinach, herbs, or any combination of)

Preheat broiler. Tear bread into 2-3 inch chunks. Place on large baking sheet and toss with enough olive oil to coat. Place baking sheet on top rack and toast in the oven along with chicken (at 475 degrees) until just starting to brown, about 3 minutes. Remove from oven.
In separate bowl, combine dried cranberries with red wine vinegar and warm water. Set aside.
Meanwhile, whisk remaining olive oil, vinegar, salt, pepper and garlic together in large serving bowl. Add warm bread pieces, tossing as you go. Taste for seasonings. Cover with foil and set in a warm spot.
Drain plumped dried cranberries. Add cranberries and toasted pine nuts to bread mixture. Fold in.
After preparing chicken pan juices, toss bread mixture with a couple tablespoons of pan juices, a little red wine vinegar and the greens. Taste again for seasoning.
Place carved chicken amongst bread salad, drizzle the pan juices over chicken and serve.
(We like to add a crispy skinned baked potato to this meal and some roasted carrots. Save some pan juices to drizzle over potatoes.)

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Pics to go with Last Post

Salmon Like it Hot


In my opinion there are only two ways to prepare salmon; nice and slow and gentle or screeching hot and fast. This one is the latter; so sweetly tender and moist it will melt your heart. Crispy and flavourful on the outside, it’s more about method than ingredients. Though, you do want to be sure you have a lovely wild salmon for this recipe. Sockeye is perfect, and worth searching out. Don’t buy those yucky chum, especially the individually wrapped frozen pieces. They have no flavour and dry out immediately. Pointless.
Also, due to the incredible omnipresence of the toxic laden Atlantic salmon (so studies tell me, and I’m not taking any chances), I have been using steelhead trout or Arctic char in place of salmon. Wonderful replacements, with an almost indiscernible difference. Plus,  I like the availability.
Jord said this is quite possibly the best thing he has ever eaten, and this kid knows good food. Simple but not necessarily easy.


4 salmon fillets
Chunky sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup red wine vinegar
¼ cup maple syrup

 Season salmon quite heavily with salt and pepper on both sides. Sprinkle with cayenne. Let side for about 20 minutes.
 Heat the olive oil with butter in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat, it should almost start to smoke. Lay the salmon pieces in pan. Make sure they do not touch! If they do, you will have to use two pans. Now, let them sizzle away for about 3-4 minutes per side, very dark and crispy. Meanwhile, combine vinegar and maple syrup. Pour over salmon with about 1 minute cooking time left.
            Serve with Dilly of a Tartar Sauce and .


1/3 cup sour cream
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1loosely packed cup fresh dill, chopped
Juice from 1 fresh lemon
2 tablespoons capers
6 dill pickles, chopped
2 dashes hot sauce
Sea salt
Freshly ground pepper

Combine the whole lot in a bowl and let sit while you prepare the rest of the dinner. 


12 camparis, chopped and seeded
½ large red onion, chopped
½ cup chopped parsley
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
½ cup red wine vinegar
½ cup olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
Chunky black pepper

Chop tomatoes and set aside. Combine remaining ingredients and let mellow for about 30 minutes. Add tomatoes right before serving or sauce will get watery.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Two Days of Heavenly Food

Yesterday. Lazy Sunday with Greek Eggs for Brunch, Afternoon coffee at the charming local Beans, and a Seared Salmon with Two Sauces, Lime Rice, and Balsamic Herb Feta Salad for Dinner.
It all came crashing down, however, at 2:26 am, when this 10:30p.m. meal sat undigested and crying for attention somewhere in my bloated midriff. (Didn't start cooking until 8:30 due to languishing long in the aforementioned coffee shop. Where  I laboured over Honda car related matters until a Swedish friend from the past floated in unannounced. But anyway, digression is taking the steering wheel here.....)
Stay tuned. I will share recipes for this healthful and satisfying meal, as well as tonight's equally soul enriching feast (hint, there are many ways to pluck a duck, but this is the ONLY way to roast a chicken. Well, one of the only ways), SOON!
Until We Meet Again,
With Delicious Hugs and Kisses

Saturday, 9 July 2011

The Dishevelled Chef

Food is the perfect lover. It excites, enchants. It beckons with a promise of sweet and salty things to come. Yet, it must be coaxed from its raw beauty. Time, a gentle caress, attention and devotion are needed. Not a simple thing, to bring this love alive.  
I’m not always organized, I usually don’t “mise en place” (cute little bowls all in a row), I don’t wait for a perfectly quiet day when I have tons of time to dedicate to my culinary art. I just dig in, mess it up, chef it up, and shovel it in. In fact, my dinner prep is a bit like the birthing process. Long, arduous, painful, and often not very pretty. While bringing my wondrous creation into the world, I sweat, I scream, and sometimes, for no apparent reason, I swear at my husband.
By the time I’m preparing the last dish, I try not to panic. But I do, I just do. I completely forget my breathing exercises. My hair is now plastered to my forehead. My apron hangs dismally around my knees. People are hungry; they’re congregating, circling me. They’re demanding answers. What, when, why so long? 
And yet, it’s spectacular fun and quite adventurous. Sometimes we don’t eat until 11p.m., but we’ve had a heck of a good time getting there. Plus, the food tastes divine when everyone’s that famished.
When at last I proudly raise heaping platters - my babies, my creations - to the dining table, the crowd is reenergized, I am reenergized. Sweet aromas waft into our over-stimulated nostrils. We joke, we eat, we love food and one another. I am reminded again of why I chose the life of the disheveled chef.