Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Dreamy Kale

When you start dreaming about kale, you’re eating too much kale. This is exactly the situation I found myself in one morning, waking up to wonder, “Was it really a dream? Did I actually dream about cooking kale? Do I have any kale in the fridge?”. Well I don’t know if it was dream or heavenly vision but I woke up in possession of a new recipe, and a new reason to fall in love with kale all over again.

In the dream, I was washing and ripping kale leaves, getting ready to make my staple kale and chickpeas (recipe at and sighing, wishing that Boyfriend found it filling enough for a meal, when it hit me: not chickpeas but chicken! I decided to make the switch to satisfy my ever-loving carnivore. As the dream continued I saw myself sautéing the chicken with prosciutto, for flavour. What an idea! Where had that come from? A few hours after waking I was still mulling it over in my head, so when I went home for lunch I took out some chicken to thaw. And thus, that night I had the best kale yet.

Dreamy Kale

  • Two chicken breasts, cut into cubes
  • ¼ cup prosciutto, shredded
  • 1 tbs Olive oil
  • A big bunch of kale, washed and cut into ribbons (should still be wet)

    Heat oil in a large, deep skillet. Add prosciutto and chicken and sauté until chicken is browned. Add the kale, cook until wilted. (You may need to add it in batches, but as it wilts it will shrink and you should have room for all of it). Reduce heat to medium-low and cover. Cook another 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Serves 2

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Flying Troutmans

There's just something about Miriam Toews. I've never known an author who could be so uplifting and depressing at the same time.

I read her mega-hit "A Complicated Kindness" summer before last. I usually avoid the big bestsellers, they have an annoying tendency to be sad voids where a potentially good story gets bogged down in terrible writing and critic-pandering, but when M. tells me I should read something, I usually do. He was right, as he mostly is. I liked it very much. A book about the hard times, and a hard girl that managed to avoid cliches and was funny without simpering.

If anything, I liked The Flying Troutmans even better. Again a story about people dealing with impossibly sad situations, Toews takes her prairie desolation on the road, to the deserts of the USA in this surprisingly optimistic story. The narrative is more traditional and therefore probably more accessible than the first. The heartbreak is constant, but so too is the idea that, although things will probably never be ok, they might at least get a little better. This is more optimistic than it sounds. You know that the characters will never be free of their burdens, because they are imposed by bad luck on people they love. They would not choose to leave anyone behind no matter how hurtful that person was. But you believe that things will likely improve to the point where they will be bearable, and that's good enough.

When the characters reach a situation that they can live with, you want to stand up and cheer. Bound by love, they find a way to deal.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Ode to Poutine

There are times when nothing else will do.

For those of you who don't live in Canada, poutine is the miracle that occurs when you sprinkle cheese over homefries and then pour gravy over the whole works. Traditional poutine uses cheese curds, but most of the chip joints in St. John's just use shredded mozzarella.

I find that when I'm really tired, when I'm stressed and work out and spread too thin, I need poutine. When things are bad but not too bad, I'm all about more wholesome comfort foods like peanut butter toast or soup, but there comes a time when it has to be poutine. Gut-churning, heart-stopping, oh-so-satisfying poutine.

Such a time came Saturday night.

It started Friday morning. I had to be early for work to attend an all-day symposium. The symposium was a success, but immediately after I was off to the mall for midnight madness. Once a year all the stores have 20% off and stay open till midnight. It's kind of how they kick off Christmas shopping. It's completely exhausting to work, but when you work at a cardshop it's all hands on deck. By 11 my feet were aching and my head was pounding. But when another girl got sick I was asked to come back to open the following morning.

Opening was a bit of a mess, it took me three counts to get the cash to balance, and the rest of the day was kind of a blur. By the time I was walking home from the busstop in the rain it became clear that it was a poutine night. Thankfully, wonderul boyfriend obliged with carryout from The Big R.

I barely got through a third of it (and a glass of wine) I felt full and comforted. After a big food-induced coma I was ready to tackle another week.

Monday, November 2, 2009


Oh, I've been a bad blogger! I started this blog to find the humour and joy in my often too packed life. But instead of coming here for that I've been overwhelmed by work and obligations. Bad Duckie!

So what have I been doing? Well, working mostly. Cleaning some too (although you wouldn't guess to look about me. I may never clean again if this is how long it lasts!) I read a collection of Sherlock Holmes stories, almost entirely on the bus, and cooked a whole lot of vegetables.

I was, for the vast majority of my life, a very picky eater. I refused many foods based on their names and appearances. I rejected anything that may have had spices in it. I ate mashed potatoes, noodles with Parmesan cheese and grilled cheese sandwiches. As I reached adulthood, I came to be embarrassed in public of my reluctance to eat anything out of the ordinary, but I was still mystified by exotic options and overwhelmed by heavy applications of pepper.

I think, in my study of wine I found the root of my problem. I'm over-sensitive. I read a criticism of wine super-critic Robert Parker which basically said that he had smelled and tasted so much, his senses have become deadened and he only likes very strong wines now. I think I have the opposite problem, I smell and taste things too much. I've known for years that I have an overdeveloped sense of smell. I can smell a cheap vanilla body spray from 4 cubicles away. I've decided that's why I often find heavily seasoned dishes to be too much for me. So I've decided to focus on finding a variety of foods with more delicate flavours based on garlic, butter, oil, a dash of salt and pepper, and light seasonings to make meals that are aromatic and delicious, but subtle.

This is where the vegetables come in. For most of my life I would reject vegetables based on the fact that they were green and ugly. I began eating them with a steely determination for health, eating them raw or steamed because they are healthiest that way. Recently I've decided to be kinder to vegetables. To understand that they need different techniques and time to bring forth their proper flavour. And what flavour! They subtle differences between kale, romaine and spinach or between Brussels sprouts and cabbage have shown me a spectrum of colour I didn't know was possible. The sweetness of a carrot, the crunchy bitterness of broccoli send me into ecstasies of joy. Vegetables! Who knew?

Some of my new favourite vegetable recipes:


(Adapted from

Butter-Seared broccoli, but calling it BSB puts me in mind of the backstreet boys, which automatically increases the joy of any endeavour.

Chop the florets off a head of broccoli and wash. Melt a tablespoon or two of butter in a skillet on high heat. The butter will foam, then subside. At this point add the broccoli and stir constantly. Marvel as your dull broccoli turns a vibrant shade of green, putting your spring lawn to shame! After a minute or two the butter should be absorbed. Remove from heat and sprinkle a pinch of coarse salt over. Run around your house insisting everyone eat your delicious broccoli, then sulk when you don't have enough left.

Brussels Sprouts

Adapted from a recipe from my lovely and talented roommate:

Line a cookie sheet with tin foil. Chop sprouts in half, removing any icky leaves as you do. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, then arrange on the sheet. Bake at 300 degrees for 20 minutes, then turn, give another little brush with oil and return to the oven for an additional 20 minutes. (Although if they're small you might want to check on them after 10, I overcooked them the first time I tried it)

Mashed Butternut Squash

Adapted from Orangette. She does this as a puree, but I like a mash better.

Peel, seed, and chop up your squash. Boil squash until tender. Drain off liquid and mash vigorously with a glob of butter and a tablespoon or two of maple syrup. Eat for lunch out of a bowl on a cold and rainy day.

Braised Cabbage

Also from orangette. What can I say? The girl understands veggies.

Remove the outer leaves of the cabbage, rinse and pat dry. Chop into eighths and arrange the wedges in a baking dish. They can overlap a little, but shouldn't be layered. Chop up three or four carrots and a big onion and distribute around the cabbage. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of olive oil, 1/4 cup chicken broth, a few pinches of coarse salt and a couple good cranks from the pepper mill over the whole works. Cover tightly with tin foil and bake at 300 degrees for an hour. Then take it out, turn over the cabbage, add more liquid if it's at all dry, re-cover and put it back in for another hour. Yes, this takes a ridiculously long time, but you can't believe how delicious this is. Try it!