creamy pumpkin soup: a jack-o-lantern in a bowl.

Pumpkins are one of the cheapest vegetables yet they can be blended to make one of the heartiest soups. One that reminds you of ghosts and cornucopias in the same mouthful.
A pot of pumpkin percolating (try saying that fast ten times) is a delight which creates savory steam that fills my apartment. I love soups - not only for the warm creaminess that saturates every crevice of your mouth and slips easily down your throat, but also for the smells that so easily pervade every area of our abode.
With goodly hunks of bread and hungry stomachs (all that picture hanging in my room is tough work!), we tucked in to our soups. I think (if I could find a better catch-phrase) I topped Cambell's 'Mmm mmm good'.
Creamy Pumpkin Soup

4 tbs. olive oil
1 large yellow onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
6 c. of roasted pumpkin, chopped and peeled (you can also boil the pumpkin to remove the skin, but roasting it makes it taste better)
5 c. chicken stock  
1 c. 2% milk
1 1/2 c. heavy cream (I subbed 2% milk because one ounce of cream would probably kill me, but tastes so much better!)
ground black pepper
3 tsp. tarragon leaves
salt, to taste
pinch, cloves
pinch, cinnamon
pinch, nutmeg
1 tsp. brown sugar

1. Heat oil  in the soup pot and fry the onions and garlic for about five minutes, or until caramelized.

3. Add the rest of the ingredients, except for the milk and cream. Simmer for 1/2 an hour.

4. Blend the soup until completely smooth. Add the cream and milk and simmer for a couple more minutes. Taste it and add more spices if need be.

4.Pray. Eat. Enjoy. Alliterate an antecedent.

thai lemongrass basil stir-fry: i love sundays.

It was a productive day on Sunday. I worshiped God, met up with a lovely friend for coffee (well, tea for me), and then walked a few blocks over to my favorite Thai grocery store on Broadway right near Kingsway. I also realized that I was considering taking an apartment right beside the store -- that would have been dangerous. 
I brought my treasures back home and decided to do something spectacular with them, for once, only for my own palette. It is leisurely and fun when cooking for yourself (though I always make too much -- that's an instinctive thing). 
Thai basil is different from the regular lovely fragrant leaves used -- it has a stronger taste, and
I was also able to finish my second drawing. Opus has become my favorite store in the past couple of weeks because it allows you to frame your own pieces -- cutting down on cost and allowing you to learn the 'ancient' art. It was a good Sunday -- with the two kinds of art complimenting each other, cooking and drawing.  
Thai Lemongrass Basil Stir-Fry 

Thai chili or chili flakes -- optional
2 stalks fresh lemongrass -- tender part thinly sliced
1/4 cup coconut milk
1 tbs. sugar
2 tbs. fish sauce (salt may be used as a substitute)
1/2 tsp. white pepper

1 birds eye pepper, chopped
25 fresh Thai basil leaves
1 tbs. lime zest
1/2 lime, juiced
Stir-fried fresh vegetables (such as baby carrots, mushroom, bell peppers, squash and Thai, Japanese or domestic eggplant)

1 package cooked rice noodles

1. Blend together the first ten ingredients until smooth. 

2. Pour the sauce into a wok and add the vegetables. Cook until tender and add the rice noodles. 

3. Stir it all together until warm and cooked. 

4. Pray. Eat. Enjoy. Frame at Opus.

tomato baked baby-backed ribs: one for every friend.

Ribs. Not only for anchorman.
My Saturday morning began with revisiting my childhood, facilitated by the physical visitation of Powell River friends.
And just like a child, as we drove down to Bellingham to go to my favorite grocery store (Trader Joe's!), I let my mind wander. We traveled past mountains and wooded hills. My imagination flew in a way it hadn't in years -- through trees, fields, and craggy crevices --  and I dreamed of taking off, living in the woods, leaving it all, My Side of the Mountain style.  

After, it was time for ribs. There is nothing like holding a huge hunk of meat in your hands, one that you can mold to whatever flavors you desire. A large piece of meat, any kind, is like a blank canvas, one that can be painted with a multitude of ingredients. However, unlike the scary white blank-ness, the warm colour of ribs invites you to cover it in ooey-goodness, one that will please even the most elitist palette.   
It is hard to cook in someone elses kitchen. There is no instinctive grabbing for ingredients, no neat throwing tricks with cans, and no way of knowing what is stored/stocked/enjoyed by another for cooking. We went to my best friend's that night, able to meet with friends I hadn't seen in a while and honoured with her confidence to let me use her kitchen.
However, even with these difficulties, meat is almost always a hit. Ribs, even more of a popular dish -- you can never go wrong. Barbecue was historically the most popular means of cooking pork, however, I always find simmering it in a sauce is a means of maintaining the moisture in the flesh.

To make the most flavorful ribs, marinade them at least a day in advance, though it is not the most necessary thing when simmering in a thick sauce.
Tomato Baby-Backed Ribs

1 can of diced tomatoes
2 tbs. granulated body
1/4 c. white wine vinegar
2 tbs. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried sage
1 tsp. ground black pepper
1 tsp. paprika
salt, to taste
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 c. fresh basil leaves
1/4 c. chorizo sausage, chopped
1 rack baby back ribs

1. Place the first nine ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

2. Mix the blended ingredients with basil and chorizo. Cover the ribs with the mix and marinade for a day in advance.

3. Preheat the oven to 425 F. Place the ribs in a baking pan and cover with tinfoil. Cook for 1/2 hour or until the ribs are cooked. Remove the tinfoil and cook uncovered for 15 minutes or until browned.

4. Serve with potatoes, and salad. Pour the sauce over the ribs and enough so that the potatoes can be dipped in it.

5. Pray. Eat. Enjoy. Give a rib to every friend. If there aren't enough, make more -- leftovers are never a bad thing.

thai green curry: a mellow end to a spicy day.

Its always been my belief that the base of a good curry dish should not come already made in a jar. This is especially true for green curry, where it is the freshness of ingredients that determines the deliciousness of the sauce.

Green curry is known as the hot cousin of the standard yellow or spicy red bases of other delightful dishes, though most assume -- because of its colour -- that it is quite the calm dish. However, in terms of flavor, it is the sweetness of the paste which sets it apart from other curries. Originating in Asia, the paste has been used for hundreds of years to flavor a variety of dishes, however, it was in the 14th century, in Siam, where a dish similar to the one we partake of today was adopted -- with coconut milk to offset the spiciness of the curry.
While I played with food, Jered played with fire, lighting the difficult fireplace with which I had had no luck lately to produce heat.
After creating the curry paste, it is added to coconut milk to be reduced on the stove. The gorgeous colour of the curry is kept bright through added lime juice, and is accentuated as it is added to the milk.
Stelna was there the first time I served green curry to friends and so it was apt that she partook the second time. (I have no eating photos this time -- I deleted them by mistake -- but it is probably to the relief of those who consumed my food)

After a long and difficult day at work, there is nothing better than being able to come home and create something out of a few ingredients, play textures and flavors off of each other, and please a variety of palettes. It is a simple pleasure, one derived out of giving joy to others, even if it is just in their mouth from the food, and their soul from the company. There could be no better end to the week.
Thai Green Curry


2 lemongrass stalks, the tender white part minced, the rest discarded
2 green birds eye chilies, sliced
5 tbsp. purple onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic
1 thumb-size piece of ginger, sliced
1/2 c. fresh cilantro leaves & stems, chopped
1/2 c. fresh Thai basil (regular works as well), chopped
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. ground white pepper (available in most supermarket spice aisles)
1/2 tsp.  ground coriander
1/2 tsp. tumeric
3 tbsp. fish sauce
1/2 tsp. salt (if you have shrimp paste, use a tsp. of it instead of the salt, however, I know this is a very rare ingredient to have in your pantry for when else would you ever use it?!)
1/2 lime, juiced
2 tsp. brown sugar
4 tbsp. coconut milk
1 tbs. peanut oil

1 can coconut milk (get the good stuff, its like 30 cents more, but completely worth it)
2 small chicken breasts, sliced
2 sweet bell peppers
1 c. mushrooms, sliced

1. Stick all the ingredients for the paste in a blender. Blend until desired consistency is reached (I like mine really really smooth, but if you are wanting a chunkier paste, then be sure to finely mince your ingredients before blending to avoid large random pieces of ginger and such in your dish).

2. Place a large frying pan on the stove and add the coconut milk and green curry paste. Let it come to a simmer and cook for about five minutes or until reduced slightly and incorporated.

3. Add the chicken and simmer until almost completely cooked -- about 5-8 minutes. Add the mushrooms next and cook for two minutes. Add the peppers and cook for another two minutes. Check the chicken and if that is cooked, as well as the vegetables, remove from the stove and let sit for another two minutes to thicken. Serve on a bed of rice with plenty of sauce drizzled over. 

4. Pray. Eat. Enjoy. Try something new on the stove, even if it involves shrimp paste.

spicy roasted pepper hummus: a ghoulish dip.

I love hummus. Not the hummus you get here, but the kind served in Jordan and Israel. I remember going to a restaraunt with our friend Elias in the old city of Jerusalem, tucked away in a back alley, that was devoted completely and utterly to the hotly-contested Middle Eastern condiment.
To add a bit of flavor and pizazz to my dip this time, I decided to add sweet red peppers and spicy birds eyes (which will also stop me from consuming the entire batch in one sitting).
However, I did not eat this lovely protien-packed treat (I brought it for lunch the next day to work) before attending Fright Nights at the PNE -- instead, we all had the bright idea to go out for all-you-can-eat sushi. Very intelligent.
We had to make sure that everyone was tall enough to ride. Unfortunately, they were not.
But we all snuck on anyway.
And again.
I actually have the belief that the rides cured our sushi hangover. How -- I have no idea.
Brendan treated me to a ride in the salt and pepper shaker (?). Two people are at the bottom and two at the top, and then all (seemingly, but I don't know) 200 feet is spun in a circle -- exhilarating. We were stuck at the top for a few minutes as they loaded more people on at the bottom. It was beautiful. Dark, with the entire city stretched out before me, creating a haze that felt lower than me, while I was in the clear crisp air, so close to the moon and the stars. I could have stayed up there forever. But then we were falling down, down, down so fast and I was giggling and Brendan was yelling and it was marvelously fun.
This was the resulting hair.
Rides weren't the only thing to partake of at FN. There were also numerous haunted houses.
One had clowns. I loathe clowns. Detest. Hate.
Overall, however, it was a pretty great night. Made some new friends as well (ghouls seem to be attracted to a camera). They'll be at my next potluck.
(Ghoulish) Spicy Roasted Pepper Hummus

1 can chickpeas, drained
4 tbs. tahini
1/2 cup olive oil
1 lemon, juiced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. paprika (plus more for sprinkling on the top)
1 tsp. cumin
1 roasted red pepper, peeled
2 roasted birds eye peppers or one roasted jalepeno, peeled
salt, to taste

1. Place all ingredients in a blender. Blend until incredibly smooth and creamy and yummy.

2. Serve with a flatbread, like pita or naan (its nice when slightly warmed and brushed with olive oil beforehand).

3. Pray. Eat. Enjoy. Actually, I retract the second word -- don't eat if going on scary exhilarating rides, just pray a whole lot.

caprese salad: the return of the elusive roommate.

So, shock of all shocks, a true caprese salad doesn't have balsamic vinegar drizzled on it. But when has staying true to a recipe ever stopped me from cooking? Besides, what is a true caprese salad nowadays? The ones that are commonly known are covered in balsamic, so when does popular opinion officially change the makeup of a recipe? I could begin to get philosophical here, but I'll refrain.

Caprese is one of the most simple 'insalatas', however, it is so lovingly treasured in Italian cuisine that is is generally served as its very own antipasto (starter dish) rather than as a side (as most other salads are). Considered the Italian representative in food (because of its tri-colour resemblance to the country's flag), it was thought to have originated on the island Capri and spread throughout the country. To me, it represents the freshness of summer, and hearkens me back to warmer days -- it made the sunshine's rays outside seem a little bit brighter and more caressing even with the heat struggling to break through the cold air.
It was a mellow night on Tuesday. The first in many. And I was able to enjoy it with a treasure -- my roomie (at least before she went to kickboxing class, and kept me on the phone while she was walking because it was located in the creepiest, darkest alley near our house).
While she was kicking . . . people[?] (I'm not even sure what happened in that class -- Jacqui came home extremely sore and then went straight to bed . . . and I resolved never to take a kickboxing class) . . . I finished my drawing. 
I'm pretty happy with it honestly, and that doesn't happen too often (you know artists, silly and temperamental creatures). Now, just for the frame. Which is going to be a struggle, but worth it for a good piece of art in my room, one that makes me want to sleep and feel the comfort of my bed. Yawn.
Insalata Caprese Salad
(I like writing it the way most signs in Ottawa are, only with Italian instead of French)

1/4 teaspoon dried oregano 
1/2 cup balsalmic vinegar
2 large vine-ripened tomatoes, sliced 1/4" thick
2 large fresh mozzarella balls (should be about the size of your fist), sliced to about 1/4" thick
1/4 cup packed fresh basil leaves, kept whole and beautiful 
4 tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
fine sea salt to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Place the vinegar and oregano in a saucepan on the stove. Simmer it for about ten minutes, or until it has been reduced by half. Remove from heat and let sit until completely cooled.

2. Arrange the tomatoes, mozza, and basil so they create tricolour stacks (it doesn't matter their sequence, just don't put the basil on the bottom, that would just be silly).
3. Drizzle the balsalmic/oregano reduction over the top of the salad. Drizzle the olive oil over the top as well. Sprinkle on salt and pepper to taste. 
4. Pray. Eat. Enjoy. Pick up a pencil and feel joy as each piece of graphite catches on the tooth of the paper.


tinga de pollo tacos: mexican spicy stewed chicken for a hip to the hop monday.

Tinga de pollo is a popular Central Mexican dish. With intense flavor yet a soft texture, this spicy stewed chicken dish stands out from other traditional dishes because of the ease with which it can be prepared. Small changes can be made to the stew as well, allowing the cook to personalize the flavor every time it is made.
After simmering the initial base of the stew for a while, the smells filled my apartment, inviting people for dinner through the scent that wafted through the hallway. The trail of smell guided two hungry boys to my humble abode, and I swear they opened the door with their noses.
We attempted to intermingle the smell of Mexican food with that of a campfire, however, the latter failed (due to my lack of kindling), even though Brodie gave it a valiant effort.

My lack of usual 'eating' pictures was dictated by the fact that Brodie decided that he was going to make an odd, odd face in every photo. But, they enjoyed it (though I don't have documentary proof). And it provided sustenance for the night to come -- listening to karaoke hip-hop at Fortune Sound Club -- allowing us to experience an array of different cultures on Monday. Ole fo' shizzle my nizzle.
Tinga de Pollo (Mexican Spicy Stewed Chicken) Tacos

2 large tomatoes, charred and skin removed in the oven
1 head garlic, minced
2 medium onions, finely chopped
2 tbs. olive oil
1 cup chicken stock
2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
2 tsp. oregano
4 chipotle chilies in adobo sauce, chopped, with sauce added as well (add less if you don't like spicy!)

salt, to taste
2 chicken breasts
1 lime, juiced

tacos, whether soft or hard (the latter being less authentic)
salsa fresca
avocado, sliced

1. Drizzle the olive oil into a large saucepan or pot, place it on the stove at medium-high heat, and saute the garlic, charred tomatoes, and onion for 3-4 minutes in the pot or until caramelized.

2. De-glaze the pot with the chicken stock, stirring vigorously. Add the chipotles, cumin, nutmeg, oregano, and chicken and let simmer for ten minutes. The chicken should come apart easily at the end of the cooking time.

3. Add the lime juice after shredding the chicken so it is in thin strips (this can be done with two forks). Add salt to taste, and stir.

4. Serve in soft or hard tacos, or on a bed of greens with a side of re-fried beans.

5. Pray. Eat. Enjoy. Go out on a Monday night, no matter the consequences (you're only young once).

tom kha gai: thai coconut soup served, sipped, slurped on a sunday.

There is something magical about Sundays. The tradition of attending church and enjoying a lunch after brings a kind of calm throughout the day. It is paced, mandated by a strict service time, yet almost leisurely - the last day of the week is one full of comfortable contradictions.

Stelna, the loveliest of the lovelies, stayed the night and we took our time waking up before heading to church. After, we decided to embark on a drive to the Local, a lovely little industrial-feeling eatery in Kit, with a few friends.
 After eating great food, chatting, and drinking caesars, it was 3:30 in the afternoon (!!). Oh the curse of the lazy Sunday -- no concept of time.
The sun may have been shining outside, but the air was crisp and cool. Stel and I built a fire and holed up in my cozy apartment, with the crackling and faint sweet smell of burning wood protecting us from the October cold.
While Stelna studied, I meditated.With a pencil. There is something calming about the slow scratch of a pencil catching on the grain of the paper, slowly building up the graphite to create a shape, giving it lines of life.

She studied, I drew, and soup simmered on the stove. A slightly spicy yet filling soup -- tom kha gai, or spicy Thai coconut soup. Though its more popular brother soup, tom yum talay, is the one generally known and served in restaurants, tom kha gai is a mellower, more refined version of the spicy soup. It has an earthiness not found in the other soup, and is a dish that appeals to almost any palette due to the coconut milk offsetting any sudden sharp flavors. 
Tom Kha Gai: Creamy Thai Coconut Soup

2 cups chicken stock
1 stalk lemongrass, only the tender middle, minced, and every other part sliced into two inch pieces
1 small thumb of ginger, sliced
2 kaffir lime leaves, broken
1 tsp. sugar
1 can coconut milk
2 birds eye chilies (I like to use 3 or 4, but this can be much too spicy for most)
2 tbs. fish sauce
1/2 a lime, juiced
1/4 c. cilantro
1 cup chicken breast, sliced, or 1 cup fish and seafood, sliced (I used squid in this one)
1/2 c. white mushrooms, sliced
veggies, sliced, of your choice

1. Simmer the lemongrass, sugar, stock, ginger and lime leaves for five minutes (your house will smell phenomenal after this step).

2. Add the coconut milk, chilies, and fish sauce and cook for another five minutes.

3. Place the mushrooms and meat used in the pot, whether chicken or seafood, and simmer until cooked through.

4. Add any other veggies you feel like at this point as well, letting them simmer until tender when pierced by a fork.

5. Right before serving, sprinkle on cilantro and add lime juice (you want the sour flavor to be fresh, rather than mellowed by the cooking process, hence why it is added at the end).

6. Pray. Eat. Enjoy. Find a church that moves you, and give thanks for the day of rest that follows.