this blog is a Cathy comic

I cannot stop laughing about this. I’m not even watching it anymore because the laughing is starting to hurt. I don’t even care that this blog is becoming primarily food and cute children (+ occasional self-promotion). I am willing to be a cliche for this.

Complete with the perfect blonde angel to her left who doesn’t seem to have a problem doing it perfectly the first time. Tiny, struggling, brunette dancer, I feel your pain. I had the same haircut as you. I fell over a lot, too. I promise you will be good at something else.

I cannot thank Bab enough for bringing this to my attention.

other places you can find me

Life went from zero to hero in a matter of hours, and I have no brain power left to make any snide comments or witty one-offs.

he had it coming.

Here is what I do have: Tomorrow, I’ll be on CBC Radio One’s Definitely Not The Opera, talking about a totally terrible rooster named Rocky. Tune in! The show starts at 2 p.m., more here.

This week is generally crazy (which is obviously why I’m here writing to my 3 readers instead of, you know, doing work), but at some point soon I will endeavor to share with you my brantabulous muffriend recipe. Because that picture next door is so appetizing, yes?

gotta get down on Friday

front seat, definitely

Instead of taking Rebecca Black’s advice and partyin’ partyin’ yeah fun fun fun fun, I decided to undo all my good work at hot yoga by creating a giant pasta dish on Friday night. I had a huge hunk of goats’ milk feta that needed to be eaten and some shrimp looking for a new home. A star was born.

It’s a chunky sauce, not a smooth one… you could substitute Italian sausage for shrimp, and/or also toss in some pitted kalamata olives if you want to go more Mediterranean-y (I do not think I will ever learn how to spell that word without a dictionary, by the way). The basic onion-garlic-tomato-seasoning-white wine foundation of this sauce is my go-to for pasta. So quick, so easy, so flexible.

Gettin’ down with Feta and Shrimp

In a large sauté pan, heat on medium-high:

  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil (add more as needed)
  • 1 tbsp butter

Let your oils get all hot and bothered, then add:

  • one head garlic, diced (or just a few cloves if you’re planning on putting the moves on someone later)
  • one medium red onion, diced

Once the garlic and onion have softened and maybe even browned a tad, add:

  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 c white wine
  • 2 tbsp italian seasonings
  • salt and pepper to your little heart’s content

Ok, so things are getting really sexy in there by now. (I almost just ate that mixture on its own and called it a night.) Once they’ve all paired off and exchanged numbers, add in:

  • 3 roma tomatoes, diced
  • 2 tsp sugar

Reduce the heat to medium-low so it’s just simmering, covered. You can leave it at this stage for a while if you’re not in a rush to eat… it can only do good things for the marriage of flavours. (But if you’re starving like I was, plow ahead.) When you’re ready to chow down, boil a big pot of water, throw in craploads of salt and then add:

  • pasta for two. I like short-cut extruded or shapes for a chunky sauce like this, so: penne, fusilli, rotini, etc.

When the pasta is close to being done, add to your sauce:

  • as much spinach as you can hold in two hands, with the tough stems removed (I’m so precise. Basically it’s about half of one of those cello packs. You can’t really add too much or too little, unless you have no common sense.)

Once the spinach wilts, add:

  • 10-14 cooked, peeled, deveined shrimp (if you’re using uncooked shrimp you’ll need to add them a bit sooner so they cook through, maybe with the spinach).
  • about 1 cup goats’ milk feta, diced (or less, but I go big)

If you want firm chunks of feta, stir it up and serve immediately on top of your pasta. If you want gooey saucy melty feta heaven, then remove from heat and let sit, covered, for a few minutes. I did this by accident… but what a happy accident it was. Highly recommended.

Pour yourself a glass of that wine and enjoy… maybe with your gay best friend? Girl, do you?

Disappointing Gay Best Friend from mikalabierma on Vimeo.

you, me, and a little challah on the side: it’s bashert

The Mrs. got lucky and had two birthday parties, and at celebration-the-second, the topic of baking bread came up. I lament the day humanity became too busy to devote hours on end to waiting for little yeasticles to elaborately construct flexible strands of gluten. (Clearly I have no idea how the science of bread works.) I think the lack of bread-baking going on in the modern home has a lot to do with the fact that women aren’t just hanging around the kitchen all day, hanging out laundry and scrubbing floors between rises. Those uppity bitches.

I agreed to share my challah recipe with another charming party-goer. And then I thought, faithful reader, why not just do it up style: bake some challah and share it with the world.

Challah is the first bread I ever baked. I’ve since moved on to a five-minute no-knead bread as a standby, but nothing beats the egginess and the lightness and the faint sweetness of challah done right. I tend to eat the entire loaf within 24 hours of baking it — most of it directly after it comes out of the oven — so my suggestion is to just slather with butter and die a thousand little deaths of happiness. I swear to god if Gaddafi got a taste of this there would be peace in Libya. I’d say it has the power to bring peace to the Middle East, but when we consider the religious origins of challah the argument falls apart.

Challah At’cha Boy
…I think that’s Yiddish for “this bread is bomb diggity”

This recipe makes two large loaves and is an all-day affair. Give yourself five hours start to finish (most of this is waiting for your rises, during which time you can paint your toenails or throw cats at the neighbours’ kids). You can easily halve the recipe — I usually do so, because I know if I make two loaves, I’ll eat two loaves. Unwise.

We start with the liquid ingredients. In a medium saucepan, bring just to a boil:

  • 2 c milk
  • 6 tbsp butter
  • 1/3 c white sugar

Pour it into a large bowl and let it cool to lukewarm, about 105-115 degrees farenheit. This is where a kitchen thermometer comes in handy, but if you don’t have one just cool it until you can comfortably leave your finger in the mixture for more than 10 seconds, but it still feels plenty warm to the touch. Too cold and your yeasticles won’t wake up, too hot and they’ll die. Fussbudgets. Stir in:

  • 2 packets (4 and 1/2 tsp) active dry yeast — if you have a jar of yeast refrigerate it after opening, I learned this the hard way

Let sit for 10 minutes, while you get out a small bowl and beat:

  • 3 eggs — this is where it’s a little tricky if you’re halving the recipe. In that case, you’ll need to beat 2 eggs and reserve about 1/4 of the eggies until the last stage in the process (egg wash!).

Once the yeast is all cozy and snuggly, add in:

  • your eggs (minus 1/4 of them if you’re halving the recipe)
  • 2 tsp salt

Mix well, then add:

  • 5 c flour, one cup at a time

Now, you should have a sticky dough. Flour a (clean!) work surface and turn your dough out onto it. Gradually sprinkle over the dough:

  • 1 c flour

And begin to knead. This part isn’t hard, per se, but I always find it a challenge to know when the bread is kneaded enough. You want a smooth, elastic dough. As you’re kneading, add more flour as necessary (beyond the 6 cups we already put in). You want to knead for about 5-10 minutes, until it springs back to the touch when poked. Alternatively, you can rip off a small piece and try to stretch it out in a sheet — if it gets to the point where it’s so thin that light can get through, without ripping or stretching unevenly, then it’s good to go. Wash your big bowl, and smear it with:

  • 1-2 tbsp butter

Toss your doughball in there, and turn it to coat lightly with delicious buttah. Cover the bowl with a tea towel, and put it somewhere warm — but not hot, or you’ll kill our yeasticle friends!* On top of the fridge is good, or on top of the stove if you’ve recently been baking/cooking.

Once your doughball is tripled in size (1-2 hours), re-flour your work surface and introduce it to your risen dough. Cut your dough in half, and then cut each half into three even pieces. Roll each piece out into long “snakes” of approximately 18 inches. Take three snakes and braid them together, pinching the ends together and then tucking them under the loaf (pinching them onto the bottom of the loaf to make sure they stay). Repeat with the other three snakes.

Dust a large baking sheet with:

  • corn meal/corn flour

And put your loaves on the sheet, with room in between them so they can rise again (it’s Jesus bread!) (oh wait it really is, he was a Jew too!). Allow to rise for one hour. About 10 min before they’re ready, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. In your egg bowl, beat together:

  • 1 egg — if you’re halving the recipe, you already have half a beaten egg set aside.
  • about 1 tbsp cold water

Brush this egg wash over the top and sides of your loaves. It will make your bread shiny and even fancier-looking, like it’s not impressive enough to boast that you baked bread from scratch. Sprinkle over the loaves:

  • poppy seeds or sesame seeds, to taste

Pop those buns in the oven and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until they sound hollow when their bottoms are thumped. Sounds weird, but you’ll know exactly what I mean.

When it comes out of the oven, tear into that baby! I’m writing this as my batch bakes, and it’s all I can do not to wrench that oven open right now, open my mouth and bury my face in its half-baked splendour. It’s great with anything: butter, honey, jam… whatever cranks your caboose. When it’s hot it almost doesn’t need anything.

I know this recipe is a little involved, but I mastered it my first time out and I think you can too! It is guaranteed to impress the most difficult people in your life, with the added bonus that it’s so good they’ll stuff their faces and eventually end up fat.

* should vegetarians and vegans technically be eating bread that has yeast in it? Doesn’t it kill a living thing? Think of all those little yeasticles sacrificing their lives so we can have fluffy, magnificent loaves of joy! Sounds like we’re getting into slippery slope territory here.

in which the Biebs turns 17 and we celebrate with hummus

Yesterday marked an important turning point for two individuals: Justin Bieber crept one year closer to being legal, and my dear friend — we’ll call him “The Mrs.” — attained the exulted age of legal + 11. If you don’t know who the former is, clearly you’re living under a rock inside a sensory deprivation tank in a cave in Outer Mongolia. If you don’t know who the latter is, well you should’ve come to the party, shouldn’t you? It was OFF DA HOOOOOOK. I spent the evening being maybe just a little bit too loud, but in an endearing way I’m sure.

So we celebrated, with Biebs tattoos, enthusiastic dancing (ok, that was just me), and this glorious hummus. I wanted a dip that was more filling and less heart-attacky than a dairy-based dip, but retained the flavah… and this hummus turned out to be up to the job. As with most dips, the amounts are all somewhat loose — so I’ve provided general measurements here, erring on the skimpy side. Taste and adjust and add as you go!

Belieber Curry Hummus
…one less lonely chickpea

You’ll need a blender/immersion blender/food processor for this (or a potato masher and a lot of pent-up rage). Beware — my last blender suffered an overheated and untimely death at the hands of a too-thick hummus. The poor little motor just couldn’t cope. So, if you’re using a blender let’s be sure we’re not overheating the poor child. You can do this by making sure you’re adding enough liquid.

We start by assembling into your chosen food-mashing machine:

  • 1 can (about 16 oz) chickpeas, a.k.a. garbanzo beans — if you’re concerned about your blender’s strength, just toss the whole can in there without draining them, weird bean liquid and all. This will make for a smoother, more liquidy hummus, but it will also maintain your healthy relationship with blendy.
  • 2 tbsp tahini (sesame paste) — I start with this much but usually end up adding more, the more you add the “nuttier” it is.
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp chopped cilantro
  • 2 tsp garlic powder, or 1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 tsp curry power — this depends a lot on how spicy your curry is, or what kind of tolerance you and your co-eaters have for curry. I put much more than this.
  • 1 tsp salt

Now turn that blender on and call that meeting to order. If it’s too thick, slowly pour in olive oil to lighten the load. Now taste it. You’ll probably want to add more of everything. Go for it. There are no rules here. When you’re happy with the flavour, pour it into your serving bowl, drizzle it with:

  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil

Then sprinkle on:

  • paprika, to taste

And now devour it. You can go the traditional pita bread route* or you can dip in any veggie your heart desires: sweet peas (my personal favourite), carrots, celery, bell peppers, cucumber, broccoli, cauliflower, on and on. By the end of last night I was dipping in blue-cheese-and-buffalo-wing potato chips, and that was delicious too. So the possibilities are endless.

* if your pitas are stale (personally I feel as though all the pita I get at the grocery store is stale since I used to live next to a Lebanese bakery), you can cut them into triangles and lay them out in a single layer on a baking sheet. It’s not necessary, but you can brush them with olive oil and sprinkle with rosemary/basil/garlic powder/etc if you’re feeling fancy. Toss them in the oven for a few minutes on 400 degrees — and voila, pita chips! Watch them carefully while they bake… otherwise your kitchen fills with smoke and you have to go running into the hall of your apartment building wearing only sweatpants and a bra to retrieve a fire extinguisher. And then your apartment smells like charred pita for days. (Hypothetical situation.)

As seems to be the theme these days, I have no hummus photo because we dove into it too quickly/I forgot. So here’s some birthday joy/friendlove to sate your appetite:


crimpin’ on Oscar night

I’m not going to give you any of my boring Oscars commentary, because frankly who cares? Except I will say that Frathaway didn’t bother me since I just gazed lustfully at James the whole time (when he wasn’t backstage hitting the bong). Could be worse ways to spend a Sunday night. Anyone else think James Franco and Joseph Gordon-Levitt could play brothers?

Yes? No?

Anyway, here is what I did think was truly smashing about the evening: dinner. We whipped up this little gem because it could go in the oven and therefore we wouldn’t spend the red carpet slaving over the stove.

Crimpin’ Mac-n-Cheese

The crab and shrimp in this recipe adds a certain je ne sais quoi. The flavouring isn’t strong enough to be overpowering but it lightens up the dish — it’s a little more delicate and a little less BAM-THIS-IS-JUST-CHEESE-AND-CARBS. (Although there is a time and place for everything.)

Preheat your oven to 375 and grease a casserole dish (13 x 9 pan works fine, or anything that holds about 2.5 L). Get your sea-meaties ready for easy addition at the end. Prepare and set aside:

  • one 4 or 6 oz can of salad crab meat (or more expensive crab if you swing that way), drained
  • about 14 medium-sized raw shrimpies (you can use previously frozen, no one’s judging), tails removed, deveined if necessary, and chopped up

Now grate your cheese, so you have something to snack on while you prep the rest. Grate (no pre-grated please, that’s just lazy and not-very-good-tasting) and set aside:

  • 2 c cheddar
  • 1 c mild emmenthal
  • plus however much extra you plan on eating over the next 10 minutes while you chop and stir

Ok, let’s make your topping. I am going to put this topping for every pasta casserole I ever make for the rest of my god-given days. Combine and set aside:

  • about 1 c panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 tbsp butter, melted
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tbsp minced parsley (dry or fresh, whatever you’ve got)
  • 1 tbsp grated parmesan (that powdery stuff works)
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt, more if you like this saltaaaay (I put almost a whole tsp)

Boil, until cooked on the outside but undercooked in the middle:

  • about 1/2 to 3/4 pound pasta (rotini, macaroni, conchiglie, rigatoni… whatever kicks your tires)

Drain your pasta and set it aside too. Now, in a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt:

  • 3 tbsp butter

Whisk in, until smooth:

  • 1/4 c flour

Then, whisk in:

  • 1 and 3/4 c milk
  • 1 c light cream

Continue to cook over medium heat, stirring, until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. What up, bechamel sauce! Way to go, you fancy cook. Now remove it from the heat and stir in:

  • 1/4 tsp cayenne
  • 1/2 tsp ground mustard
  • 1/2 tsp Old Bay, if you have it. I didn’t so I just added pinches of all-spice, ginger, paprika, celery seed, cinnamon and nutmeg.

Now plop in your cheese and stir until melted. Oh goodness. Combine your pasta, sauce and sea meat in a big bowl and stir it all up, then taste it for saltiness — add more if necessary, undersalted mac-and-cheese is never pretty. Now, this is the important part: try not to sit down on the floor and eat the entire bowl with your hands. Instead, pour it all into your pan and then sprinkle your topping mixture evenly over the surface. Bake 20-30 min until golden on top, then let rest 5 min before serving. Let the angels sing.

I don’t have a picture because we ate it embarrassingly quickly.

For dessert we had crème brûlée. And then heart attacks.