In this cold weather, all I want to snuggle up in a blanket with a book and a warm beverage. This apple cider recipe was shared with me by a fine lady who sold tea at Detroit’s Eastern Market, and every time I make it, I’m taken back to one of my favourite trips ever (go visit Detroit!).
Motor City Cider
• 4 cups of apple juice
• 4 tsp of chai tea leaves (I like the African rooibois from The Tea Girl on 124 Street)
• A dram of maple or whiskey (optional)
Put tea leaves into a tea strainer or bag. Add apple juice and tea (and optional additions) to a pot. Bring to a boil for 3 minutes. Let it cool off a wee bit so you don’t burn your tongue. Pour into four mugs and enjoy!
Music while you cook
One of Motown’s greatest, Marvin Gaye expressing a pain still happening today:
This morning I had a mad craving for Credo’s cheddar corn muffins *again*. Just this past week I picked up one right at 7 am, freshly pulled out of the oven because I couldn’t wait. Suffice to say, it was getting ridiculous. While I love the cheesy corn muffins with a kick, I needed to find a cheaper way.
I absolutely suck at baking, so any recipe had to be super easy. In a high school baking class, I think I only got a good grade because my partner was incredible; myself and the other girl, not so much.
After looking through a few recipes online, and not really exactly what I wanted, I “MacGyver-ed” my own recipe. I wanted something reminiscent of cheese grits (which I suck at making as well), and I wanted the muffins to have a wee bit of a kick.
Cheese ‘n’ Grits Muffins
- 1 cup of flour
- 1 cup of Bob’s Red Mill Grits (good grits are hard to find in Canada and these are excellent)
- 1 Tbsp of baking powder
- 2 Tbsp of sugar
- 1 tsp of cayenne powder
- 1 large egg
- 1 cup of milk
- 4 Tbsp melted, salted butter
- 1/2 cup of medium orange cheddar
- 1/2 cup of old white cheddar
Preheat oven to 425 and grease muffin tin. Mix first five ingredients in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, beat egg. Add milk and butter to mix. Add liquid ingredients and cheese to large bowl. Mix lightly (until all ingredients are moist) and be careful to not overmix. Fill muffin tins 2/3 full. Bake for 15 minutes– knife should come out clean or at least a tiny bit cheesy. Place on cooling rack or enjoy hot with butter. Makes 12 muffins.
Music while you cook
I’m on a bit of a Jack White kick since I saw him perform at Sonic Boom fest. I’ve been a big fan since his early White Stripes days and I still like his recent stuff; since I can’t pick, take two!
Here’s the first song I ever heard by The White Stripes:
And a song off his new album:
I love ribs– but really, what non-vegetarian doesn’t? I’m partial to the ribs from Kansas City, where I have family. Spicy, but sweet and sticky. I don’t get back very often, so I’ve put together a simple recipe. I start with the oven, then finish on the grill (with smoke-infusing wood chips). It’s not the most authentic, but it works in a pinch.
** I find it’s best to get a good cut of pork side ribs and cut off the large chunks of fat before you start.
Rib rub recipe
- 1 Tbsp brown sugar
- 1 Tbsp paprika
- 1/2 tsp dry mustard
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp cayenne
- 1 rack of ribs
Rub into ribs. Put in a pan, and cover with foil. Bake for at least an hour. Soak the wood chips according to directions. If they ribs don’t look cooked enough to eat, keep them in the oven longer.
- soaked wood chips
- BBQ sauce (I usually use Bulls Eye original– the horror!)
Pack wood chips in foil with holes in the packet. Put in the bottom of the grill. Turn on grill, cover and let the chips start heating up. It should take about ten minutes (unless your chips say otherwise).
Mix 1 part honey to 2 parts BBQ sauce. I usually end up with around 2/3 cup total. Slather ribs with sauce and place on the grill, meaty side up, medium heat. Leave for about 5-10 minutes, depending on how sticky vs. saucy you like your ribs. Flip over and leave for the same amount of time.
Music while you cook
A little bit of classic Canadian rock, an a fabulous live band– The Tragically Hip.
I love southern cuisine– it’s in my roots to fry and barbecue everything. I’ve been having a hard time finding fried chicken in #yeg that was spicy, crispy but still juicy. Some places have batter that feels flat and frustrating. Some chicken wasn’t spicy at all! That simply won’t do! It’s gotta be crispy, spicy, flavorful, and juicy!
I tried to hunt down a recipe I liked, but I found that I’d be better off cobbling together my own. My partner was gracious enough to often stand in front of the stove frying it. Recently a friend of mine and I planned a fried chicken and waffle potluck dinner for us and our partners. She’s quite the foodie, so hearing that this was the “best fried chicken ever!” was quite the compliment.
I can’t guarantee that you’d get fried chicken like this in Harlan County, but the name pays tribute to the fantastic Elmore Leonard short story Fire in the Hole, which inspired the TV show Justified.
- 3 lbs of chicken (legs and thighs with skin are best)
- 1 litre of buttermilk
- hot sauce to taste
- 1 cup of flour
- 1/4 cup of seasoning* (recipe below)
- canola oil
- Put raw chicken in a large bowl and cover with buttermilk. Add hot sauce to taste. Canada doesn’t always have an excellent hot sauce selection so I used Tabasco and about 1/4 cup, depending on who I am feeding. Cover and let it sit for at least an hour. The longer, the better.
- Mix flour and seasoning in a shallow dish. Flour should look dirty. Feel free to add more or less if you like.
- Cover each piece of chicken with flour and seasoning mix. Let it sit for a few minutes.
- Heat up oil in a cast iron pan. It should sizzle loudly if you spinkle a little water on it (around 375 F). Make sure there’s enough to submerge each piece of chicken half way.
- Cook each piece of chicken for about 12 minutes. It should look golden brown.
- Put chicken aside on some paper towel to soak of excess oil.
- Serve and enjoy.
Seasoning ( I make a large batch– feel free to divide by three; 3 tsp = 1 tbsp)
- 1 tbsp oregano
- 1 tbsp ground sage
- 1 tbsp onion powder
- 1 tbsp garlic powder
- 1 tbsp cayanne pepper
- 1 tbsp chili pepper
- 5 tbsp paprika
- 6 tbsp season salt
Music while you cook
A song for the show Justified from the wonderful Dave Alvin:
One of my favourite places in the world is Jamaica. Beautiful landscape, friendly people and tasty, tasty food. Just hours after we landed in Montego Bay, we grabbed some jerk chicken and pork at a local joint The Pork Pit and I loved it. I love spicy food. Some people find adventure and thrills in skydiving; I find it in fiery food. After that, I was trying jerk anywhere we went–roadside stops, local restaurants and bars.
I love jerk– the spiciness, the complexity of the flavors melding together, the slightly charred bits. I love BBQ– I blame it on my Kansas City, Missouri roots (if you don’t know, KC loves it some BBQ). I do typically prefer a classic KC bbq– slow-roasted with a sweet but spicy tomato-based sauce. Jerk is a totally different type of bbq than I’m used to, but it’s still pretty fantastic.
After some recipe trial and error, I’ve come up with the following recipe. Not super authentic, but it works in a pinch. One of these days, I’ll figure out how to make it with pork. Traditionally, jerk is slow cooked over pimento wood–almost smoked. My apartment balcony barbecue doesn’t have the capacity to smoke, so I use a gas grill.
For jerk marinade:
- 5 large garlic cloves
- 1 medium onion, loosely chopped
- 5-6 fresh habanero chile, stemmed and seeded (if you don’t have gloves, put your non-knife hand in a plastic bag to avoid getting the juice on you)
- 1/4 cup lime juice
- 2 tbsps soy sauce
- 3 tbsps olive oil
- 1.5 oz amber rum
- 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
- 3 tsp ground allspice
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 2 lbs of chicken with skin and bone (legs and thighs, about 5 each)
Throw all ingredients except for chicken in a blender. Blend until smooth. Put chicken and marinade in a zipper plastic bag. Leave for at least one day, turning once in while. Grill on a greased grill, medium-low heat. To keep it more moist, I usually start with the chicken in foil to keep it from drying out on the gas grill. If you have a charcoal grill or smoker– even better! Once the chicken is nearly cooked, I move it onto the flames directly and crank the heat up to give it a nice, blackened look. Serve with watermelon, grilled pineapple or any other tropical fruits you like. Drink a rum and ginger beer.
Music while you cook
When we were in Jamaica, whenever someone told us about a famous Jamaican (and quite embarrassingly we often didn’t know them), they’d respond with “But you do know the great Bob Marley, right?”
I had forgotten how much I loved granola until I met up with a friend at the Highlevel Diner for breakfast a couple of weeks ago. The Highlevel’s granola is crunchy, flavourful, loaded with all sorts of grains, nuts and raisins, and served with fresh fruit. I wanted to make something similar for my breakfast before work (or at work in many cases), and this is the recipe I put together.
I’ll still visit HLD for their amazing cinnamon buns, though!
- 3 cups regular oats (not quick)
- 1 cup slivered or chopped almonds
- 2/3 cup pumpkin seeds
- 1/2 cup shredded coconut
- 1 cup amber maple syrup
- 1/4 cup canola oil
- 1 cup dried cranberries
Preheat oven to 325 F. Mix all ingredients except for cranberries in a bowl. Spread a cookie sheet and bake for 25 minutes. Stir and bake for another 15 or 20 minutes. It should be golden brown when you pull it out of the oven. Let it cool and mix with the dried cranberries. Store in an airtight container. Serve with dairy or non-dairy (I like almond milk) and fresh fruit of your choice.
Music while you cook
I was lucky enough to see the wonderful David Francey perform at Calgary’s Folk Music Festival a few years ago. His music is sweet, soothing, and comforting– perfect pairing with granola.
I’ve long believed that food is a narrative. If you look at the ingredients and the cooking style, food tells you where you are, where you’ve been, who you are, or even who you want to be. Food tells a story.
Back in Tkaronto (Toronto), I was disappointed with my choices of food. A lot of it bland and boring. Eventually I found a few haunts I enjoyed, and one of my favourites was Caplansky’s Deli.
Caplansky’s Deli is a Toronto institution– a classic Jewish deli on College Street that everyone should visit at least once. Chances are, you’ll visit again. Whether it was a smoked meat sandwich, split pea soup, a salad, maple and beef bacon donuts, I always loved what I ordered.
Food at Caplansky’s told a story– the story of the Jewish diaspora in Toronto. It’s a story of a rich cultural history, rooted in tradition, but willing to adapt and progress with the changes of time. They make their own smoked meat, and many other foods, in house, but they also sell cheeky t-shirts and house-made mustard; they also opened one of Toronto’s most recognizable food trucks.
Dammit, just thinking about Caplansky’s makes me want their smoked meat sandwich. Sadly, I doubt I’ll be able to find anything here in Amiskwaciwâskahikan (Edmonton) even close; Caplansky’s is a unique story, one not likely to be replicated.
But the same can be said for food in Edmonton.
In Edmonton, the farmers’ markets are unparalleled. Fresh, local fruit and veggies. Baked goods. Organic, free-range meats– even game meats! I found it so hard to grocery shop in Toronto, but being back in Edmonton, I suddenly want to eat everything. In Edmonton, there is value in hunting/growing/making your own food. Quality, local food is celebrated. The relationship with the land is much different, and it has an impact on the food available.
While I could easily go back into my old favourites for food here in Edmonton, I think I need to find new adventures in food. New stories.
Even if I have to learn to make it myself and tell the stories on my own. First stop– smoked meat?
Yes, I do really need to come up with a better name for the soup.
It’s a variation of the fantastic soup recipe that the Toronto Star’s Jennifer Bain breaks down here and in the Toronto Star Cookbook (worth the purchase). The soup is one of my favourite recipes in the cookbook, but I thought it might be fun to try out a few variations
I generally follow Bain’s recipe, except today I made a couple small changes:
- 1 full cup of apple juice, replacing some of the broth (short on broth)
- Corridor Sausage’s Vietnamese Chicken Sausage (Detroit, I miss your food!)
- a few slices of ginger, to season the broth
- a teaspoon-ish of Chili Garlic Sauce in the broth
- roast the potatoes, onions and garlic in the oven, because I’m lazy; I also leave the skin on the potatoes
- about half a can of corn (leftover from yesterday)
The soup still looks the same as Bain’s recipe, but it tastes a fair bit different. Either way, both soups are very tasty, and this gives me something to do on my days off.