Mak and Murph Unite

Kelsey and I were reunited at last over the holidays. And what a wonderful time it was! Every Christmas since my family moved to Victoria, we have visited Kelsey's family in Seattle on our way home from visiting my dad's parents in Portland. This year was a repeat of many shared holiday eats between our two families that started in Chicago when our parents got hitched, met each other and became friends.

We went to Boom Noodle, located in the ever funky neighborhood of Capitol Hill, and ate memorable dishes such as edamame puree with sweet potato crisps, ahi tacos, and okonomiyaki (pork pancakes). We drank sake and tons of green tea while we talked, laughed and planned dinner for the next night. Although Kelsey missed out on this outing, the rest of us (our two families) really enjoyed it. Leaving the restaurant I announced, I'm going to move to Seattle! However, I say this about many places.

Katherine, me and Kelsey

The next morning we ate breakfast at Lola, one of our favourite restaurants in Seattle, owned by the infamous Tommy Douglas, the creator of the incredible Triple Coconut Cream Pie. Breakfast was, however, a light affair. After too much excessive holiday eating I only wanted granola with greek yogurt and fruit, and Kelsey, victim to similar excess, had a bran muffin (her favourite). Other members of the parade had delicacies such as lacinto kale scrambles and Greek omlettes. After lots of tea and coffee, we left the restaurant with a bounce in our step, ready to hit Pike Street Market and shop for dinner.

Well, to be honest, the dads and Katherine shopped for dinner. Sal (my mom) and Kathleen (Kelsey's mom) shopped for lamps, while Kelsey and I went to the Finnish store and had more coffee and tea with a cookie at Le Panier; we had a lot to catch up on you see.

The day progressed beautifully. After the market, some people went to the museum, others went home to bake cakes and take naps, and Kelsey and I went over the the University district to poke around in used record stores and second hand clothing shops. I found a pair of red high heels. Kelsey found a colourful knit dress. We had more tea. Then we went home to cook.

'Twas a seafood feast to remember!

Dungeness crab, deep fried razor clams and oysters on the half shell, complete with bread from Le Panier, butter and a salad. Katherine's cake followed.

This is a Dungeness crab before dad broke it in-half over a step-ladder, removed the lungs and guts, rinced it off and dumped it into a huge pot of boiling salty water for 10 minutes.

Kelsey learned how to shuck an oyster.

I used John's deep-fryer to deep-fry these razor clams. (For breading, Panko bread crumbs work the best.) They were succulent.

That's a big crab. Man! 100 reasons why living in the West is best.

The salad was delicious. My mom is the best lettuce-washer and dressing-maker around. Kelsey garnished it with oranges, pomegranate seeds, pistachios and feta cheese.

Katherine made a butter sponge cake with apricot glaze and toasted almonds on top.

A light, fluffy end to a protein-rich, buttery feast. Thank you Maki's for hoasting the party! I can't wait until next time.

The Dads: Eric and John


These are long over due, but a nice reminder of good times in '09. (Too early to be nostalgic? Not for meals like this).

1, 2 & 3: First supper out at Nick's. Fabulous mixed green salad with candied fig (I think). Followed by truly superior pizza, and completed with the finest cannoli I've ever eaten.

4, 5, & 6: The River Cafe - a true dining experience. The view was foggy, but that was made up for by the lunch service which featured more waiters than diners. Tuna Tartar that changed my life, Branzino Fillet of Mediterranean Sea Bass, completed with chocolate sticky pudding and pistachio ice cream sandwich. Devine splurge - looking forward to another visit someday.

7&8: The Rowley/Maki Thanksgiving feast! Perfectly timed and truly exquisite. Featured turkey breast, candied yams, mashed potatoes, Brussels sprouts with red wine vinegar and pistachio nuts, pickled beets with mint, rolls, gravy, stuffing, and Rowley Family Famous Cranberry Sauce. And yes, all that was for two. Followed by pumpkin pie with fresh whipped cream. A perfect day.

9: One of two french toast breakfasts I ate consecutively. This one was at Jane. Both were exactly crunchy and soft enough - and served with something sweet - orange slice or banana/pecan topping. For some reason, french toast was on the brain. Also Blinis.

Enjoy the drool fest...

Apple Pie and Cowgirls

When I was home at Christmas, Katherine and I decided we needed to live in the same city: left to our own devices, we are much too serious. Both very driven, intense individuals, we can lose ourselves in various projects, only to lift our heads up and say, hmmmm, it's Saturday and I haven't seen a soul for days! I am the more extroverted of the two, wearing my emotions proudly on my sleeve, always seeking center stage, while Katherine is more reserved, working quickly and quietly backstage until, before you know it, she's made 100 jars of jam, 10 pies and 50 jars of pickles. She's unstoppable. Without her, a career on center stage would be a joke and a dream; her take-it-as-it-comes approach to life reassures me. She's always reaching up and pulling me back to earth. Together on the ground we run fast, but evenly.

We spent the entire holiday in the kitchen. We left of course from time to time to brush our teeth and go to sleep, to tie up our shoes and go somewhere, or to put our feet up and read a book, but most of the time we hung out in the kitchen. Even when we weren't cooking we were in there sitting at the island, eating sandwiches or bowls of berries and ice cream. I was often standing on a chair reading aloud from Even Cowgirls Get the Blues by Tom Robbins, or playing my guitar and singing, pretending I was at Woodstock, or announcing my latest philosophical epiphany. Other pet activities included: listening to Fleetwood Mac at full volume and dancing around with vigor, doing push ups and sit ups (because that's our idea of fun), or reading cookbooks and calling out promising recipes.

More specifically, and more pertinent to the picture above, (although we did a lot of cowgirl-like activities and didn't get the blues), we made apple pie, twice. For a while, whenever I would think of home it was about eating cinnamon buns and drinking coffee with Katherine at a local bakery. Now I think about eating apple pie and doing the twist to Fleetwood Mac on a rainy holiday afternoon. In my opinion, there are few things better than an apple pie, especially one eaten in the company of terrific, well-loved, and highly thought of individuals. I have an incling, however, that if I was eating some alone right now, that'd be fine too.

So let's talk about pie. What's a good pie? First of all, there's the pastry. Most people don't make their own crust because it sends them into a fit of worry. This is unfortunate, but I've been there and I understand. You have to learn how the dough will feel in your hands when it's the right consistency. You have to master a few key techniques. You have to confidently try different recipes until you find one that works for you. This takes time and courage. And remember, someone will always say: the best pastry I ever tried was at the Christmas party last year. Betty Sue gave me the recipe, but I just can't make it like she does! Hogwash. Let's all stop comparing ourselves to everyone else.

Once you have spent hours and days and weeks and months and years perfecting the art of pastry making, perhaps you will have found a favourite filling you particularly like. In the meantime, refer to the Joy of Cooking; it won't let you down, promise. Runny filling is unsatisfying and unpleasant, so use some sort of thickener, like flour, tapioca, or cornstarch. Good quality fruit, nuts, syrups and sugars will make all the difference in the world, so use them.

The pastry recipe I'm going to share with you is inspired from my dear friend Max's mother, Lee. I have previously posted the original recipe here. Since then, my dad has made some modifications and Katherine has worked on polishing them. Before Christmas, I made several pie crusts with lackluster results. Katherine also felt as if something was missing from her pastry. We tackled our separate problems as a team. Both times, I made the dough, while Katherine tossed together a filling. When the dough was chilled she rolled out the crust. Both times, the pie was unreal. Together we are unstoppable.

Apple Pie

1 9-inch double-crust pie

à la jude & co.

I highly recommend using white spelt flour here if you can find it. There was a difference in texture between white pastry flour and the white spelt. Katherine said it was the easiest dough she'd ever handled. Why this is, I'm not sure, but that's a good enough reason for me.

The original recipe is for two double crust pies. We cut the liquid in half and reduced the flour to 3 cups.

Use room temperature butter for this recipe. You should be able to press your finger into the butter so that it just gives way and leaves a soft imprint.

In a bowl:

3 C white spelt flour (or white pastry flour)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt (add 1 tsp if you're using unsalted butter)
1 1/2 C room temperature butter

- Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
- Cut in the butter until the butter is well dispersed in the four. If you leave big chunks of butter, the dough will be difficult to roll out once it's chilled.

In a liquid measure:

1 egg
1 TBS apple cider vinegar
1 TBS brown sugar

- Mix these first three ingredients together.
- Add cold water until it reaches the 1/2 C line.

- Slowly add the liquid to the dry ingredients, using a fork to mix the dough together with a light flicking motion.
- Once the dough has come together in big globs, stop mixing and turn the dough out onto a floured surface and gather it together in one pile. Starting from the end furthest from you, smear the dough away from you using the heel of your hand to fully incorporate the butter into the flour. You should smear the dough about six times.
- Separate the dough into two flat discs, wrap them in plastic wrap and refrigerate for two hours.

To Roll Out The Dough

- On a floured surface, start to roll out the dough by gently turning the dough clockwise after each stroke of the rolling pin.
- Once the dough is about 1/8 inch thick and large enough to fit into the pie pan, gently roll the dough around the rolling pin and lay the dough into the pan. You can also use the four corner fold method. This involves folding the circle in half, and then folding that half in half to make a quarter. You then put the point of the quarter in the center of the pie pan and unfold it.
- Roll out the top the same way.
- Once the filling is in, lay the top over the pie, trim off any excess, fold the overhang under and crimp the edges.

* For good detailed information and photos about dough, rolling out dough, and crimping visit these pages at


5-6 C sliced cooking apples
1/2 - 3/4 C brown or white sugar
1 TBS lemon juice
1 - 1/2 TBS cornstarch
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg

* only very tart apples require the larger amount of sugar
* only very juicy apples require the larger amount of cornstarch

Optional: if serving the pie with cheese omit the lemon juice and add fennel or anise seed

- Preheat the oven to 350 F.
- Mix above ingredients together in a bowl and pour into pie shell.
- Cover with the top pastry and crimp the edges.
- Cut some slits in the top to let the steam escape.
- Brush with egg and milk; sprinkle with sugar.

- Bake for 45 minutes or until the top is brown and the filling bubbling. If you notice the top burning after 20-30 minutes, you may have to turn down your oven temperature to slow down the cooking.
- I like using glass pyrex pie dishes because you can see how the crust is doing on the bottom.

- Give your sister a high five, or yourself a pat on the back, get out some vanilla ice-cream or cheddar cheese and tuck in!

Yeah lady!

And if any of you devoted readers have any questions or need more information, I am always a keyboard away.

Getting it out There or Why it Takes me so long to Shop for Groceries

I try to stick to food for this blog – but today I’ve been really struck with a few items that while not directly related to food, do have a union with that topic, and are worthy of spouting off a bit about. Nor am I normally so vulnerable here, but I believe I need to be. It is good therapy for me. And perhaps also for you.

Today I am haunted by my own consumption. Judes and I joked a little over the holidays about how I believe that our consumer culture is the root of all evil (and, well, I do). But nonetheless it is our culture – so how do we live in this culture and keep a clear conscience? I’m not sure that we can.

I spent $50 a Wal-Mart today. I went in because it was convenient and I wanted to buy a mixer for less than $10, and Target was out. I hate shopping at Wal-Mart. Nickel & Dimed just flashes before me at every turn. I was both appalled and secretly thrilled to find things there so cheap. Two frozen rising crust pizzas for $8? Normally that would cost $10-$12. And they carry things with the appropriate key words: natural, organic. I can never decide if I am actually making the prudent choice or just being deceived.

I did end up buying organic milk and butter (something I NEVER do because of the cost differential) partly because I felt guilt for being in Wal-Mart period, and partly because I just watched Fresh. I mentioned this film in a previous post, but it really is sticking with me. I’ve known about the horrors of the meat and food industry in this country, but this film sort of solidified them for me. In particular the scene of baby chicks being dumped on the ground out of plastic bins – they make a terrible squawk, as well as the description an industrial turned natural farmer gave of a wound he received from one of his own pigs. The injury proved UNTREATABLE because of the amount of antibiotics pumped into his animals. Thinking about the schlock that makes its way into my food, before I even begin to work with it, horrifies me. Matt and I cannot afford to buy all our meat and food product as “organic” and “free-range” or “natural.” But I sure do want to. Not so much even from an environmental or political standpoint (all though those are important to) but more from a health standpoint. If am going to eat fats and meats and what not – I would like them to be doing something for my body other than making my summer pants too small. And not eating meat isn’t really an option at this point (although I considered it) because I cook for and eat with a Texan – to whom vegetarianism might as well be asceticism.

Another stroke of guilt that rolls through me when shopping (and not just at Wal-Mart) is that of indulgence. Unfortunately attending private college gave me a taste for expensive things – DAMN those wealthy roommates. For example, expensive candles really do smell better. So I will periodically indulge in one of these items, today it was nail polish, which really wasn’t that much of an indulgence given it was Revlon, but anyway – I spent about $8 on nail polish and as I was driving home was panged with the thought of how far that $8 could go in Haiti right now. HOW DO WE MANAGE THIS PEOPLE? Is it wrong to buy nail polish when we I could be making a donation to support Haitians? I rather think so, and yet, I rationalize the purchase as an attempt to better enact my femininity, which I regularly suck at. That is lame too. Not as lame (lame is not the appropriate word here but bear with me as I attempt some parallelism) as the horrific situation in Haiti, but lame.

At least the drive home was stunning. The wind is blowing snow around today, so the trees our delicately outlined. The sky is white – so the limbs appear delicate, black and tender. My trip home from Wal-Mart involves a long downward stretch lined densely with trees, and in concert with the sky today, they moved me to tears. Granted, it may have been the stress of deciding between nail polish and Haiti, or organic milk for $3.50 vs. standard antibioticized milk for $1.50 that built me up to that point, but the trees put me over the edge. And although my father will cringe to read this, I was so thankful for the opportunity to send all of these thoughts – the fear and guilt over Haiti, the concern over our food stuffs, and the awe for natural beauty – to God. I don’t feel like here is the place to justify or discuss my religious standing as I am kind of trying to wrap this all up nicely, but I will gladly go into more detail later (for a quick overview of my feelings perhaps watch a little Studio 60? I sort of rest somewhere in the middle of that argument). But today it was nice to put faith in the idea of a plan – that somebody, or something, some where’s got all our backs. Whether we are painting our toes or navigating rubble, I praise God for the peace and opportunity to put it all up to him and mindfully get on with our day.

Back At It

A few notes on the new year of eating:

  • While I was home in December Matt would call me and say, "I am eating Salmon with an asparagus sauce," to which I would below "WHY DON'T YOU COOK LIKE THAT FOR ME?" or "SINCE WHEN ARE WE ALLOWED TO BUY SALMON?" He's used to this kind of extremity, so he was un-phased. Upon returning home I found our fridge fully stocked with produce, including lettuce. For those of you who are not avid readers, produce is something of an anomaly in our house hold because it is expensive. After viewing a fridge full of foliage, I spun on my heal to give Matt my nastiest-how-could-you-do-this-while-I-am-away face. Again, un-phased. Shortly there after I opened my Christmas gift from Matt: a copy of Jaime Oliver's Ministry of Food. I am of course pleased, but Matt goes on to explain that the meals he cooked over break were out of this book and practice, because this year he is committing to cooking dinner once a week. For those of you that may miss the point, let me spell it out for you: A-W-E-S-O-M-E.
  • None of my pants fit due to much eating while home and the neccessity to where layers in the negative Minnesota temperatures.
  • In the past week I've successfully made cinnamon rolls with cream cheese icing, pita bread, pulled pork, mashed potatoes, tzaziki, stir fry, and lentil soup. A GOOD START INDEED.
  • Everyone should know how to make pulled pork. It requires nothing but good pork. I recently watched Fresh, which makes me grateful that I have the Thompson's to buy meat from. Please see below for pulled pork recipe. Trust me, this is so good it needs no sauce.
  • I love beginning a stew or sauce or soup because that initial sauté of celery, onion, carrot and what have you is rich with promise. That might sound tacky, but I believe it. From that simple start so much can develop, so it is exhilarating, always to begin.
Pulled Pork
What Ya' Need:
4lb bone in free range, natural pork shoulder or butt (should have a really nice bit of fat on it)
1 medium onion

What Ya' Do:
Preheat oven to 300. In a dutch oven or other, deep oven proof pan, place pork shoulder/butt in pan, fat side UP (you want all that lovely flavor to dribble down past all the meat). Quarter onion and break up over pork. Fill pan with one inch deep of water. Cover and place in oven. Cook for at least 3 hours, or until meet is falling away from bone. You pretty much can't over cook this. I will cook it all day sometimes if I am around.

When you are ready to eat, remove dutch oven, use forks to pull pork from the bones and away from residual fat. Eat as is or serve in sandwiches, with beans, on salads, etc.

Do NOT be concerned with the fats. If you do use a good, natural cut of pork that fat is PACKED with fats that your body really does need. Granted I am not recomending you eat pulled pork every night, BUT once and awhile is something that will serve you well in the long run.

Happy New Year!

The Victoria Backyard in Winter

Hello all, I've missed you, but I had to take a break. The following little "essay" is something I just finished for my Writing Techniques class. I couldn't resist posting it, and since it's not for marks, there was very little pressure. Please! Feel free to comment on my writing. Apparently translators have to write REALLY well. Who would've thought? So these next few months are going to be dedicated to improving my writing. I'd especially like your help with pointing out any unclear recipe directions. And, I have to write a How To article at the end of the semester. Since food is a likely candidate for a topic, are there any delicious, rather complicated recipes you'd like me to tackle?

Here she is:

Why I keep moving to Montreal

I have moved to Montreal three times over the last five years. The first time for my first year of university at McGill, and then for a second time because I fell in love with a Quebecois one-summer tree planting. After both of these short sejours, neither longer than 8 months, I returned home to Victoria, B.C, where I finished my undergraduate degree in French studies. In January 2009, I came back to Montreal for a third time to study translation, and to establish myself in a place I can call home.

I find transition extremely difficult. Filled with uncertainty and worry, it takes an enormous amount of effort, especially when moving from place to place. Whenever I phone my family, usually rather panicked, during these times of change, my mom always tells me: “Well, you do like to know how things are going to turn out.” I do, but life is full of change, and you have to find a way to get comfortable when the earth trembles underneath and you slip a bit between the cracks. In my family, food is our middle ground. Cooking and eating together keeps us in check, even during the most difficult of times. Each time I’ve left home during these glorious early years of my twenties, I have scrambled to find the same ritual and comfort in the food I cook, or the people I share it with. However, it wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be.

Cafeteria food was traumatizing. Now when I look back on my first year in Montreal living in residence, I can’t help but smile. But how I scoffed and scorned at the gummy lumps of pasta, cried over wilted salad, hung my head at the over-cooked broccoli, held my stomach and prayed it would stop aching between meals, hoarded the grocery stores for the foods I ate at home; I was searching for a common ground in this vibrant, windy city. I tried making muffins like dad did at home, but between mixing them in a sauce pan on top of my apartment fridge and carrying them around residence to and from the oven, it seemed like a lot of work for the tiny, hard, porous pucks I produced. For Thanksgiving, I shamelessly bought piecrust and pumpkin filling, added eggs and baked the thing. I brought the pie to a dinner I was invited to. Shocked by how much people loved it, I realized for the first time that it’s about sharing food as much as it is about the quality. A plain ole’ hot dog can go a long way when shared under the right circumstances. I was learning that if you cook, they’d come.

I tried this same approach when I moved in with Jean Simon after only three months of living together in the bush. I thought he was the one; it was a risk, and I took it. But I was so in love, it was hard to admit early on that it wasn’t working. He was starting his masters and had little time; I had too much time, working 15 hours a week at Petits Gateaux, a cupcake store on Mont Royal. To remedy the lack of communication and growing distance between us, I cooked good meals for us to eat together. This gave me enormous sense of purpose. He’d come home from school and lean over me at the stove. “Qu’est-ce que tu fais?” He’d ask. “I’m cooking up those moose steaks your parents gave us. There’s sweet potatoes in the oven and rice on the stove,” I’d reply. “Est-ce que tu vas faire une sauce pour la viande? As-tu la mariné? Ma mère fait ça.” I’d grit my teeth and mumble no, but maybe next time. Maybe I wasn’t cooking what he wanted to eat, but nothing seemed ever good enough. However, it was the bread that finally broke me. After Jean Simon left for school, I’d eat breakfast and then start to make bread. At home, I’d successfully made pizza dough, foccacia, sandwich bread, etc., but I couldn’t make it work in Montreal. The crumb was always too loose, or the bread undercooked, or the top burned. One day I opened the oven to see the bottom element sparking like a Halloween sparkler. The top of my bread was black. A burning smell filled the kitchen with a cloud of smoke. I took it out of the oven, unmolded it, and started crying over the uncooked (yet burned!) mass steaming steadily on the counter. Shortly after that, and several emotional phone calls home, I got on a plane.

When I arrived in the middle of January 2009, one year after leaving Jean Simon, the wind was howling, it was – 30 C, and I was very unsure of what I would do. I had a couple of classes to finish by distance at the University of Victoria, but I had no job lined up and a lot of time before my translation program started in the spring at McGill. However, I moved in with one of my best friends, Libby. She was in school full time, and I became, very naturally, the in-house chef. Another one of our friends was living with us, and I cooked time-consuming vegetarian casseroles for weekly sustenance from the Moosewood Cookbook. I made baked fish with an avocado, red pepper sauce, and rich, moist chocolate cake served with dark coffee rum; I made Stollen, a German holiday bread for Easter, peanut butter cookies for late night movies and more pancakes and muffins than the three of us could eat. When Libby left for Toronto in April, I was on my own. I’d already started to write a food blog and spent most of my free time thinking about what to make, how I’d photograph it and where I could find ingredients. My obsession with food fueled me through a time when I was scraping to build a foundation for myself. I had finally come back to Montreal with the right intentions: to discover what I had to give, and how I wanted to give it.

Returning home from the Christmas holidays this year was hard. The future of my career is uncertain, the length of my stay in Montreal is uncertain, finding a potential partner is uncertain. I left the warmth of my family, and the damp, rainy West coast, to arrive in a city blanketed by snow, again. But leaving Victoria has always been a way to meet the harsh beauty of life’s uncertainties that is softened and less obvious at home. Uncertainty is like sitting on a prickly cactus, and I will always be learning how to navigate the murky waters of ambiguity. I like to think cooking helps teach me this. Because, no matter how good our recipe is, we measure wrong, or we don’t read the directions, and we have to pull ourselves up out of the mess. Botched meals can usually be salvaged, even enjoyed in the right company, or you can just have omelets; they’re always delicious, anywhere you are.