Foods That Help Me Momentarily Forget the Coming Apocalypse

What the fuck is actually happening. Could all the assholes step aside and let the grown ups take over, please? Could someone please feed Putin a weed brownie and have him chill the fuck out? Could someone please take Amy Coney Barrett on a girls’ night out, feed her seven margaritas, and have her ugly cry Brett Kavanaugh-style into admitting her horrendous mistake? Ooooh shit, wait, that’s right, girls’ night won’t work, she hates women! Back to the drawing board! Speaking of hating women holy SHIT, Clarence Thomas. And also could someone grab his wife Ginni by the shoulders, in manner of Trump grabbing steering wheel from Secret Service Agent, and shake her while screaming, “YOU ARE A LAWYER. THIS IS NOT HOW SHIT WORKS. DID YOU MISS THAT DAY IN LAW SCHOOL. EVEN I KNOW THIS SHIT AND I ONLY HAVE A FINE ARTS DEGREE.” And honestly, how can a white protester leisurely build a DIY hot tub on Parliament Hill and I can’t build a deck on my house without a goddamn permit from the city? WHAT THE FUCK IS ACTUALLY HAPPENING.

I know we’ve all got a lot of pent up weird shit after the pandemic (after the pandemic ahahahahaha, very cute), but can everyone just work their aggression out in a spin class, or a sourdough starter instead of invading countries and stripping away women’s rights?

Remember when ALL we had to worry about was accidentally killing the elderly members of our family? Now, to add to the ever-growing list of worries: gas prices, food insecurity, the incineration of American democracy (I meeeeeeeaaan though, was it ever, really? Reeeeeaaalllly?), guns having more rights than women, sending your kid to elementary school, Europe literally melting, nuclear armageddon because of one dude’s ego, oh yeah, and the destruction of the planet, etc etc etc. That’s all. And let’s not forget Trump getting reelected or RON FUCKING DESANTIS getting the job in 2024 hahahahahahahahahahahahaaaaaaaaa oh my sweet fucking GOD.

Alright. Feeling mildly better after that. Wasn’t it was cute how I kept making jokes in my last post about “emotional eating”? Like, oh boo-hoo I’m so sad I have to self-isolate at Christmas for five days and have someone leave turkey dinner at the bottom of the basement door while I binge-watch Money Heist and eat After Eights until I puke (Ok, it didn’t happen to me but that’s how I imagined it while standing in line at Toys R’ Us, no judgement please, because you did it too). Ohhhh nooooo, what will I do in lockdown? I’ve had no practice for two years! How do I use this Skip the Dishes Gold Member Status, what will I doooooooooo??

Anyway. Food! If you can even afford to buy it these days after you’ve filled up your car.

It’s hard to find refuge lately, even when you live far enough away from it all, or you think you do because, let’s face it, stuff seems to be creeping closer and closer no matter what corner of the world you live in. So, because it’s mostly people complaining about having to sleep on an airport floor for one night in their entire life, and/or everyone fruitlessly yelling at each other, I’m trying to stay off the socials, as the kids call it. (I’m old enough to remember when socials meant real-life people and food and three dimensional funtimes but that’s a rant for another day). Taking it a bit easy on social media is made considerably easier by the fact that Facebook is a democracy-destroying cesspool, Twitter is being bandied about by billionaires who are bored after outer space or whatever, and Instagram is just ads telling me how to lose belly fat by never eating this one food (I don’t have TikTok because are you fucking kidding me). Avoiding the socials seems to be quelling the existential dread a little bit. Not reading the news much helps, too. Now, I’m not going to do something crazy like miss the VOCM Question of the Day or anything, Jesus, I’m not that far gone yet. I mean, I take a quick look at the local news every morning and a quick peak out the window to make sure this isn’t happening. But endless scrolling isn’t the solution, at least not for me. What works for me, at the risk of sounding like an inspirational Instagram post (actually worse than belly fat ads), is throwing all my energy into the small joys. Like me and my kid taking our first pond swim of the season. Or the shocking pink of a homemade rhubarb simple syrup that I made last week. The evenings being warm enough to sit out on the deck for a chat with a neighbour, or to sleep with the window wide open and not wear pajama pants and socks when I go to bed. That’s good stuff.

I had a thought when taking a dip in Punchbowl a couple weeks ago. The water was bath-warm but the fog was coming in and the air was freezing cold. Actual tendrils of fog were coming in over the pond, and a dragonfly flew by close enough that I could hear it buzz in my ear. I had the thought that if everyone could put down their phones and pay more attention to peaceful shit like this, maybe the world would be a better place?

I don’t know, man. I just seriously used the word “tendrils” in a food blog, so I might not be the best person to ask.

But the biggest joy for me, after my fella and my kid, and the unbridled shameless pleasure of reading the new Jennifer Grey memoir on our latest baycation (b’ys, the nose job story will actually break your fucking heart), is always food. I’m fortunate enough to still be able to occasionally splurge on tasty things that I love. And listen, I don’t take this shit lightly, you know? I’m grateful for it each and every day and hope that this will always be the case, knowing full well that overnight things could change. For all of us. Even the stupid space billionaires.

So here are some things that are on my list of small summer food joys. Feel free to try them, or at least let them inspire you to cook something that makes you temporarily forget that Joe Manchin exists.

Baycation T-Bone

Which kind of sounds like something absolutely filthy on Urban Dictionary, or, a good name for my kid’s first punk band. First single off the album could be “This Efficiency Unit Has No Corkscrew”, followed but the surprise hit, “Why Can’t We Have More Than One Roll of Toilet Paper.”

I can’t really remember how this baycation recipe even evolved. Maybe out of the necessity of having to pare down my travel spices to make room for more dinkies or something. In addition to an obscene amount of Ms. Vickie’s sea salt and malt vinegar chips, my stove top espresso maker, Justin’s baggie full of Tetley tea and sugar, and Jude’s favourite brand of peanut butter, gochugaru always gets tossed in the travel grocery bag when we go on baycation. And we are obsessed. It’s a Korean hot pepper powder that makes things spicy, but it’s kind of a gentle hug-type spice instead of a punch in the face. Good for upping your spice tolerance bit by bit if you’re not used to heat, and, in addition to Korean food, it’s really good in Kraft Dinner, and on t-bone steaks. And if you’re confused by the appearance of Kraft Dinner and steak in the same sentence, it’s 2022! Clarence Thomas is coming after your IUDs! Literally anything goes!

Try this at home, or around the bay, or when you’re camping. I’ve never made this in my house, only in cabins and efficiency units with kind of shitty barbecues, and it’s become our baycation tradition. Get two good steaks, we like a couple of big fat t-bones from Hallidays. Toss them in a couple of tablespoons of gochugaru, a few glugs of extra virgin olive oil, and two or three cloves of sliced garlic. Don’t salt them yet! I read somewhere that seasoning meat too early draws out moisture or something. Everyone always argues about how to cook steaks, I’m just telling you what works for me, man. Massage everything in good and marinate in the fridge for a few hours. Take out an hour or so before cooking to bring to room temp. Scrape off the garlic (it’ll burn up and get bitter on the grill) and set aside. Season the steaks generously with salt, and then bbq to your liking. Medium-rare for us, or more likely medium to medium-well depending on how good we know the grill, which generally, we do not. But I find t-bones super forgiving. Like a Republican at a January 6th hearing.

You can throw out the garlic if you like, but eeeeeeek! Throwing out food, especially in 2022 is uncomfortable for me, even if it is just scraps of meat-marinated garlic. Last time around we tossed the garlic with our roast potatoes in the last ten minutes of roasting so it wouldn’t burn. Then tossed in some grated cheese for the last two or three minutes of cooking. So we had a cheesy garlicky potato side dish to go with our slightly overcooked steaks. We ate outside, only having to swat away the occasional black fly. It was heaven.

And ok, Jesus, OKAY, technically, gochugaru has salt, so maybe it draws a little moisture out, but like, who listens to science these days anyway? (Here’s looking at you, Alberta. And hey, big shout out to Florida here as well, last seen applying to change their license plate logo from “Sunshine State” to “Don’t Say Gay”.)

Beach Fire Bacon Wrapped Scallops

Don’t pretend like you haven’t been there. Crowded around the oven at a party, trying to be the first to get a crack at the bacon wrapped scallops as soon as they’re ready to come out. Party-goers fighting like gulls at the Stavanger Drive McDonald’s parking lot, pecking each other’s eyes out for what will be…you know. An overcooked scallop and underdone rubbery bacon. After you’ve finished rolling your eyes at me, just take a moment and think about it. See? You can’t straight up wrap bacon around a scallop and bake in the oven like that and expect all the components to be cooked perfectly because science works for food too, Alberta. Cook the bacon first till it’s crispy, THEN wrap the scallop, and now we’re getting somewhere. Or, cook bacon over a fire, push it to the side of the grill, and then put the scallops on the same grill, searing them over the fire and in the residual bacon fat. THEN wrap the still-opaque-in-the-middle scallop in a piece of the crispy, fire-cooked smoky bacon. I don’t have a picture of the finished product because I didn’t want to look like even more of an asshole trying to take a picture of a bacon wrapped scallop between my fingers on the beach, but you have to trust me on this one.

Nan’s Rhubarb Dessert

The only dessert I have ever eaten for supper. Haha ok, we all know that’s not true, but if I had a choice of a dessert to eat for supper, this would be it. This works great with fresh or frozen rhubarb, and is easily doubled to fit a 9×13 pan. Great for a potluck! Nan made this so much I still can’t smell rhubarb cooking on the stove without being brought right back to her kitchen…another small (big) joy!

Here’s the exact recipe as scrawled in one of my old cookbooks, but I do a few things differently so try whatever works for you. I use butter instead of margarine, and I keep the oven on after pre-baking the crust; I stick everything back in to bake the meringue a little to make it golden instead of broiling because I burn the shit out of everything when I use the broiler, no matter how closely I pay attention. You can reduce the sugar a bit in the filling or the meringue depending on your tastes, the recipe can be messed with a bit without catastrophe, it’s not finicky like a pie or anything. I wrote about a gluten-free version of this years ago, so check that out if you’re cooking for Celiac or intolerant pals, if you want to read about me and Didi stealing rhubarb from an abandoned cat pee house, or if you want to see how bad a blog can look in its infancy.

Crust:

2 tbsp sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
Dash of salt
1/2 cup maragrine

Blend till crumbly. Pack into 9×9 pan and bake 20 minutes at 350°.

Cook together and stir till thick:

2 tbsp flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 cups chopped rhubarb
Dash of salt
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup milk

To make the meringue, use a hand mixer to whisk 3 egg whites, 6 tbsp sugar, and 1/2 tsp vanilla into stiff peaks. Pour rhubarb filling over crust, then carefully spread meringue on top. Broil on low in oven until golden.

Emperor’s Garden

Found this beauty on NYT Cooking doing a random rhubarb search, along with a fairly labour intensive rhubarb upside-down cake that was the best I’ve ever had, and a chicken tagine with rhubarb that looks too weird-good not to try. Get this app! It’s so good! NYT call me anytime!

Cocktail of the summer. Sweet, sour, a little salty. Make sure the rice wine vinegar is the seasoned kind, but regular basil is ok if you can’t find Thai, which you won’t be able to if you live in NL but I had a friend give me a plant, which will die shortly after a few drinks because I am hopeless. Topping up with club soda or some kind of fizz might be nice because it’s pretty intense and a little weird, a bit like all of our first boyfriends. Woo-hoo summer lovin’! Sometimes intense and weird is good in the right doses! In your twenties, that is, not your forties, so like, mind yourself.

Ahem. I like to rim the glass with a little Thai basil sugar because who doesn’t need a bit more refined white sugar in their diet? Finely chop some basil and work it through a couple of tablespoons of sugar with your fingers until everything is a light green colour.

This makes one serving, and admittedly, they’re a bit of a pain to make, so I used a giant mason jar to make a few at a time. Adjust accordingly! And make your rhubarb syrup in advance because it’ll need time to cool.

Ingredients:

1 cup thinly sliced rhubarb
1 cup sugar
5 Thai basil leaves; more for garnish
1 tsp seasoned rice wine vinegar
1 1/2 oz gin
3/4 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice.

Make rhubarb simple syrup. Bring 1 cup water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add rhubarb and sugar, and stir until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat, cover and let stand for 1 hour. Reserve a selection of rhubarb slices as cocktail garnishes (I didn’t do this, they were way too mushy, save for jam if you like) then strain syrup and store chilled for up to 7 days (mine’s been in the fridge for 3 weeks and counting tee tee).

In a mixing glass (mason jar with lid!) muddle the Thai basil leaves with the seasoned rice wine vinegar. Add gin, 1 oz of the rhubarb simple syrup and lemon juice. Fill mixing glass 2/3 full of ice and shake vigorously. Using a fine mesh strainer (too fussy, use lid to strain) pour into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a Thai basil leaf and a slice of reserved rhubarb (or, basil sugar rim, see above).

My Birthday Cake

My birthday was a couple days ago. I turned a 46. But who cares, right?! Because after these past two years, 46 is the new 66! I kid, I kid. I’m running the Tely 10 in the morning so it’ll feel more like 76.

I remember crying on my 30th birthday. Because nooooo! My 20’s are over, I’m so OLD! Poor me! I’m in Fiji and I just spent the day scuba diving and now I’m eating cake and drinking cocktails by the pool and I don’t have neck wrinkles or any real-life responsibilities yet! That’s a true story, and wow, was I ever an idiot. Because honestly, even in this complete manic shit show, I’m delighted to be here, neck wrinkles and all. My 46th wasn’t cocktails in Fiji, but it was a swim in the ocean with my kid, followed by an Emperor’s Garden and a Dairy Queen cheeseburger on my deck with my family and our good friend who lives around the corner. And birthday cake of course. This recipe made an appearance in the last post, but who cares. The usual, but this time with the best fudge icing you will ever eat, and fresh raspberries on top.

It was a very good day.

Hang in there, chickens. If things get worse before they get better (they definitely will, hello US Midterm Elections), at least we have the small joys to see us through, however teeny tiny they may be. Small stuff adds up to the big stuff, and the big stuff eventually makes things better. I think? I totally just made that up. Anyway, be kind, take a breath, and take no shit. Until next time! xo

The Crispy Hedgehog, or What I Emotionally Ate in 2021

So how was your Christmas? Were you maybe in a lineup of two hundred cars waiting to get your brain swabbed? Maybe you were standing outside in the cold for three hours waiting for a booster shot? Or hey, best of all, maybe you were quarantining! Did you get to eat a turkey dinner by yourself in a basement? God bless us, every one!

Everything you need to know about my mood post-Covid briefing on Wednesday can be summed up in the lunch I ate shortly afterwards. Dip and chips. Yeah no, you heard me right. Dip and chips. That’s when the chip crumbs at the bottom of the bag are too small to dip but you don’t want to waste any salty goodness so you take a spoonful of dip, sprinkle and squash the chip crumbs on top, sticking them to the spoon until everything looks a bit like a tasty, crispy little hedgehog, and then you shove the whole thing in your mouth.

Now THAT’S what I call emotional eating at its very fucking finest, chickens.

In short, everything feels fragile and tenuous and sucky right now and I’m gonna let myself feel all the feelings for a couple of days before taking a deep breath and steeling myself to take the first plunge into virtual kindergarten next week. Sweet Baby Jesus and all the exhausted saints. And in the meantime I thought I’d write a little something while I had the chance, before my writing time is snatched away in January, trying to get my kid to sit in front of an iPad for…SURPRISE! It’s school, Honey! It’s not your favourite scuba diving shipwreck youtube video, you get to do SCHOOL while Mommy drinks coffee in her bathrobe and silently weeps in a corner of the kitchen! Isn’t that cool? You’re on mute, Sweetie. YOU’RE ON MUTE. You have to unmute so the teacher can hear you but make sure Mommy’s stopped crying first, ok?

Anyway, I haven’t done a top ten list in yeeeeeeears, like since the Before Baby Times, but I thought I’d throw together one for a laugh. Yeah, I did. What, you’ll listen to a 21-year-old on TikTok tell you how to part your hair but you won’t read what a perimenopausal woman emotionally ate in Year Two of a global pandemic? That, my friends, is pretty fucking ageist, thank you very much.

10. Cheese Buldak

We eat this, no joke, a minimum of every second weekend at our house. Not the kid, obviously, because this falls outside the dry multi-grain Cheerios and butter and cheese pasta category. Spicy, cheesy, salty, sweet, and maybe the most moreish thing you’ll ever eat. I use the Maangchi recipe of course, skinless boneless chicken thighs instead of breasts, and I toss a tablespoon of sesame oil into the mix because I’m addicted. We like this on top of slightly sticky jasmine rice…which sounds a bit weird with the cheese. But also hugs are still kind of illegal, so whatever makes you feel good, man.

9. Nigella Lawson’s Cold Cure Soup

I don’t have a picture of this because it’s basically just a chicken stock, but I’m obsessed with it and always have a few containers in the freezer. I use it as a base for soups and risottos, but lately I’ve been sipping it from a mug like Nigella intended, because I’ve been sick every second week since my kid started school. The recipe calls for three pounds of chicken wings that you toss afterwards, which whaaaaaat, I guess you might feel ok about if you’re a gazillionaire. I save and freeze all my roast chicken carcasses and when I have four or five I’ll make a batch of the stuff. Toss all these ingredients (except chilis and cilantro, and subbing chicken carcasses instead of wings or whatever chicken-y equivalent you have on hand) in a large stockpot and top up with water. Bring to a boil, then let everything simmer uncovered for 2 hours. Let cool a bit, strain through a fine mesh sieve, and let cool a bit more before storing in the fridge overnight. Remove fat from the surface, before serving or freezing in batches. You can sip it with the chilis and cilantro if you like, but the absolute BEST (trust me) is putting a few dashes of fish sauce in the bottom of a mug before pouring in the stock, wrapping yourself in a blanket, and plunking yourself down in front of the TV. (And listen, the recipe name is just an expression, so get your vaccine, hippie.)

8. Smoked Salmon Pappardelle (Adapted from Fine Cooking Magazine, December 2014)

A kick-ass pasta recipe if you like smoked salmon. I predict it’s going to be a carb-heavy winter on this end, so here’s another idea to add to your list of comfort foods. It’s dead easy but looks and tastes fancy so it’s great for company, unless company is banned this winter. The good news is it’s also great for one or two. One if you are quarantining, with a ton of leftovers besides.

Kosher salt
8 to 9 oz dried pappardelle
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp finely chopped shallots
8 oz cold-smoked salmon, torn into 1-inch pieces (I used hot-smoked, it was great)
1 tbsp minced garlic (about 2 large cloves)
2 tbsp dry white wine
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 cup heavy cream (YAAAAAAAAAS)
1 tbsp drained capers
1 tbsp chopped fresh dill, plus more for garnish
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
Freshly ground black pepper
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil and cook pasta according to package directions (try to time it out so that the pasta is finished when the sauce is complete). Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat, add the shallots and reduce heat to medium and cook a couple minutes until golden brown. Add the salmon and cook a couple minutes, add garlic and stir till fragrant. Add wine and cook till evaporated, about 30 seconds. Stir in tomato paste and then cream and cook until slightly thickened, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in capers, dill, and lemon zest. Using tongs, move pasta carefully to the skillet, and a little bit of pasta water tossed in is ok, too. Mix everything together gently in the skillet, and serve the pasta sprinkled with a little bit of dill, black pepper, and some Parmesan. The Parm is optional if you’re one of those people who thinks it’s a crime to serve cheese with fish, but honestly if that’s the case what are you even doing here.

7. Sticky Buns

This was the last post I wrote. And funnily enough, we’re right back there. Except it’s kinda worse. Times are even stickier, I guess.

6. Chinched Chicken and Waffles

We’ve been going to this restaurant for almost ten years and it’s my favourite in the city, possibly the world. This was Japanese-style fried chicken on a waffle and topped with, I don’t even know, all kinds of goodness and love and stuff. Coincidentally this was my last restaurant meal a couple weeks ago with a pile of friends and we ate oysters and drank cocktails and stuffed our faces just like old times. They’ve just shut their dining room as a precaution during this latest outbreak, but they have a deli and homemade charcuterie counter for takeout so you can STILL support local while eating at home in your softpants. Perfection.

5. Moose Bulgogi

This is what happens when you have friends like Didi. And Larry, who has the best little boil-up spot known to mankind, and who’s always willing to host a bubble of pals, even when those pals come with kids who won’t stop asking questions for three hours straight. This is the food you get to eat, and these are the spots where you get to forget all the troubles in the world.

And listen, I’m not knocking a cup of tea and a hot dog when you need a boil-up fix, but it pays to have friends who will marinate moose in bulgogi, cart it into the woods, along with all the fixings (cooked rice, lettuce leaves for wrapping, kimchi and gochujang or dwen jang for serving) and cook it over an open fire like it’s no big thing.

The world needs more friends like Didi and Larry.

4. Vietnamese Iced Coffee

Ok, not really, more like Vietnamese-inspired iced coffee. I don’t have the proper gear to make an authentic one. But what I do have is an espresso maker, so I’ll make a half dozen shots and keep them in a measuring cup in the fridge, along with some sweetened condensed milk. It keeps for ages in the fridge once it’s been opened and transferred to another container. Mix cold coffee with a tablespoon or two of the sweet milk depending on your preference, and add ice. It’s hard to remember summer in times such as these, but you can make this hot, too, if you need a fix. Or when summer eventually arrives, and we get one of those super sticky days, you can zing it all up in a blender with a few ice cubes (with an optional squirt of chocolate syrup) and make yourself a homestyle frappuccino. See? You never have to leave your house again. Which might come in handy this winter when we continue to arse up this pandemic so bad that Omicron mutates into Motaba.

3. Salted Margarita Bar (New York Times Cooking)

An edible cocktail that is illegal to share with your child? Sign. Me. Up.

For the crust:

1/2 cup butter, melted, plus more for greasing pan
About 40 saltine crackers
1 tbsp granulated sugar
1 tsp kosher salt

For the filling:

2 tsp lime zest plus 1/2 cup juice (about 4 limes)
1/4 cup tequila, preferably blanco (I used very cheap and dirty, it’s fine)
2 tbsp orange liqueur, such as Grand Marnier
Pinch of kosher salt
5 large egg tolks
1 (14-oz) can sweetened condensed milk
Flaky sea salt, for finishing.

Heat the oven to 350°. Lightly grease a 9-inch square baking pan with butter and line the buttered pan with parchment, leaving an overhang on two sides. In a food processor, pulse the saltines until ground like coarse sand. It’s ok if there are a few larger pieces. Add the melted butter, sugar and salt, and pulse a few more times until the crumbs are even saturated. Pout the mixture into the lined pan, freeze into an even layer and freeze for about 15 minutes. After crust has chilled, bake 15-18 minutes or until golden brown. While the crust cools, make the filling: In a liquid measuring cup or small bowl, combine the lime zest, lime juice, tequila, orange liqueur and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together the yolks and sweetened condensed milk. Add the tequila-lime mixture to the yolk mixture, whisk to combine, then pour into prepared crust. It’s ok if the crust is not completely cool. Don’t make the curd more than 10 minutes before baking, as the lime juice will start to thicken it and it could affect the baking. Bake 15-17 minutes until the curd is set around the edges and slightly jiggly in the centre. Transfer to a rack to cool slightly, then freeze for at least 2 hours. After freezing, remove bars from the pan using the parchment overhang and transfer to cutting board. Sprinkle with flaky sea salt, cut into squares, and serve right away. Fine left out for 20 minutes or so, but make sure to store leftovers in the freezer.

2. Kimchi Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Squeeze the liquid out of 2 heaping tablespoonfuls of kimchi and chop finely. Butter the outside of your bread and add a thin layer of mayo to the insides (so the kimchi juice doesn’t soak into the bread, which wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world). Add whatever cheese you like (I like old cheddar), the kimchi, some chopped cilantro, and a sliced still-jammy boiled egg if that’s the direction your day is going in. Proceed with your favourite method of grilled cheese-grilling, maybe a wee bit lower and slower to make sure the extra sandwich toppings heat through completely. Worth the wait.
  1. The Best Chocolate Cake
It really is. My mom’s recipe, always. When there’s something to celebrate, or when something’s been lost. When it’s the Easter party at your kid’s daycare and you want to be smug in the knowledge for once in your life that you will kick every mom’s ass in the unspoken competition that is your child’s entire educational career by making the best cupcakes. When your kid turns five and wants a birthday “Titanic cake but with sea monsters that eat the survivors” and it’s his second pandemic birthday and you love him so much you make an iceberg out of meringue shards. Or when you turn 45 and are so genuinely thrilled to turn 45 because of the year that’s been, that you bake the prettiest cake and have a party because the case counts are so low, and you can have a party and your friends sing you Happy Birthday like you are a child even though you asked them not to but you are secretly so happy they did.

I’ll take the good where I can find it. And it’s still in a lot of places, thankfully. Deep breaths, chickens. And fuck it, here goes nothing, HAPPY NEW YEAR!! Bubble up, booster up, bake a cake, be well, be kind. Spring will be here sooner than we think. xo

Sticky Buns for Sticky Times

Happy Valentine’s Day! Your special gift this year is being barred in the house with the ones you love. And ONLY the ones you love. Or people you strongly dislike, if you’re in a shitty roommate situation. For weeks. Possibly months? What’s not to love? Well chickens, it was a good run. It was a great run, actually. Eight months or so of relative normalcy. We can’t really complain. But…I won’t lie. On Wednesday, after picking the kid up from daycare for what will probably be the last time for a while, and listening to the mind-blowing daily case count (and this was the day before the REALLY mind-blowing case count and then the Friday night press conference bomb), I had a bit of moment. I started panicking with what to do with my only child with no brothers or sisters to entertain him, no daycare or playdates with pals. I immediately started mourning our library visits and swimming lessons and fries at the mall afterwards. Walking down the road for treats and hangouts at the coffee shop. Shipping him off to Nanny and Poppy’s for a sleepover and going out for dinner with friends, all of us admiring each other’s fashionable face masks before taking them off to drink cocktails and eat food and play Before Times. Everything we’ve been able to do since June or so, when Newfoundland was able to live normalishly (it’s a word now) and let’s face it, a bit smugly. Personally, I was basking in the glow of “Newfoundland is number one at something! Take that Margaret Wente!” 

But then I pulled myself up by my soon-to-be-snugly-fitting leggings, and told myself, you know what? If fries at the mall are the only thing you have to mourn this year, then that’s pretty goddamn great. Give a thought to the moms in big cities who’ve been doing this for most of the year, homeschooling multiple kids in tiny apartments with only a shitty park across the street for relief. So suck it up, with your one child at home who doesn’t need to be homeschooled yet, your cozy house with your healthy family in it, your open grocery stores, your curb side liquor store pick-up, and your stunning Newfoundland winter vistas with miles of open space, and just get it done. 

Now, that’s not to say there won’t be tears and screaming into pillows and giant tablespoonfuls of Nutella licked while wearing my bathrobe, turned back-on to my child. I’m only human. But the rest of this winter is all about being grateful for small blessings and taking things one day at a time. 

So. Valentine’s day. Who cares, really. We all know it’s just another annoying holiday that makes single people feel sad (instead of awesome and lucky and hello, a lot of people are massively jealous of you right now), and makes couples feel pressure to impress their second half. Or most of all, as I’m quickly realizing what will be the theme of my life for the next few years, Valentine’s Day makes moms feel inadequate. For not being organized enough to give every kid in the daycare class a Hot Wheels car with a homemade printed sticky label that says I “WHEELIE” LIKE YOU VALENTINE! (I’m looking at you Grayson’s mom.) And honestly, let’s tell it like it is. The only person who really deserves a Valentine this year is our Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, for being the only sensible voice of reason at that press conference table, and for keeping us sane and safe and basically saving all of our asses. I would buy a Valentine’s Hot Wheels for her. With a label that says I AM WHEELIE GLAD YOU’RE RUNNING THIS SHOW. But any holiday, no matter how shoved down our throats it is, calls for treats. I’ll take whatever excuse I can get these days. I would have made a celebratory cake for Groundhog Day had the shit been hitting the fan on February 2nd, back in the innocent days of shaking our heads at the sad state of Ontario. 

So for Schmalentine’s Day, I’m offering up my favourite recipe for sticky buns. I first had them over twenty years ago when Didi and I and another half dozen friends took a road trip to Englee to visit her parents, Hoodie and Helga. We all stayed in their summer house, with a few of us across the road at Didi’s nan’s place. Helga and Nan Christina, and if I’m remembering correctly, a few aunts, made a huge spread of food for us to take on a boat trip out to Devil’s Cove and the resettled community of Canada Harbour. It was one of those perfect days that a tourist would pay hundreds of dollars for, that we got for free because most Newfoundlanders have an uncle with a longliner. It’s in my top ten of favourite days ever, and every time I eat sticky buns I think of sharing food with friends on a summer day, and almost getting hypothermia because I thought taking a dip in the ocean at the tip of the Northern Peninsula would be a good idea. Anyway, they’re simple and easy, they’ll scratch that cinnamon bun itch without all the pandemic stress of trying to find yeast, and they’re oozing with love and comfort. And like, a lot of butter and sugar. But it is Lockdown 2.0: February Edition, so don’t be afraid to treat yourself. It’s an easily tweakable recipe with a great base that you can play around with. The original recipe calls for milk but I’ve used homemade yogurt. Mostly because I was learning to make homemade yogurt and messed up a bunch of batches and had a lot in the fridge. The experiment worked out so well I use it all the time now. You can reduce the butter and sugar, swap out cardamom for the original cinnamon, sub in half whole wheat flour or coconut sugar instead of brown to fool yourself into thinking you’re making yourself a healthy snack. Lemon zest is good, too, if you have no oranges in the fridge. These are all things I’ve done with great results. It’s a good, solid, highly adaptable recipe for the 2021 Pandemic Pantry. Just make sure you use full-fat milk or yogurt, or your dough will be too dry to roll.

Orange Cardamom Sticky Buns (adapted from Helga’s Sticky Buns, or Caramel Rolls)

4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup butter, plus extra for spreading
3/4 cup full-fat yogurt (not Greek)
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp ground cardamom
Zest of one orange
Handful of halved pecans (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°F and grease a 9×9 glass dish. Sift flour, baking powder and salt together. Add 1/4 cup of the butter and mix with hands until the texture of grainy sand. Add yogurt and mix, bringing the dough together to form a ball, without over mixing or kneading too much. On a floured surface, roll into a rough rectangle with a 1/2 inch thickness. Spread with some softened butter, thinly or thickly, however you would butter your bread. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of the brown sugar, the cardamom, and the orange zest. From the long edge, roll tightly and slice into 1-inch pieces. Place the pieces into the greased pan, without stressing about making them look pretty, you have enough stress in your life right now. In a small pot on the stove, melt the remaining 1/4 cup of butter and mix in the remaining 1/2 cup of brown sugar. Add the pecans if using and stir to coat. Spoon the mixture on top of the rolls, and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the buns are cooked through and the tops are nice and crispy/caramelized looking. 

Happy Valentine’s Day, chickens. Wishing you full bellies, warm hearts, soft pants, clean hands, and rolled-up sleeves with arms jabbed full of vaccines until we can share some buns together. xo

When Life Gives You a Metric Shit Ton of Lemons

2019 might have been the time for lemonade, but if there’s ever been a year for upping one’s game, this is it. First of all, let’s acknowledge what a miracle it is that we even HAVE lemons in 2020. Especially in Newfoundland, where, not even a hundred years ago, most people would have been gearing up for scurvy season right about now. It’s easy to forget that while some of us have been making sourdough bread and bingewatching our favourite shows on Netflix, people all over the world have been getting out of bed to pick fruit and veg so the rest of us can try and forget the global pandemic by cooking and baking our way into tighter pants. For that, farmers and harvesters and truck drivers and cleaners and doctors and nurses and grocery store workers and cashiers and everybody else who’s been working their way through this shitshow of a year, unable to put their feet up on the coffee table long enough to make it through one whole series of anything, I love you and salute you.

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So, I made a lemon olive oil ice cream that made me feel like I was sitting on a cloud eating lemon meringue pie while wearing a pair of expensive silk pyjamas and it’s too good not to share. Oh wow, look at that, I’m emotional eating my favourite dairy product again. If anyone is a regular reader (hi Mom) then it’s no surprise that ice cream is my jam, and yes of course I’ve made ice cream with jam and now I’ve made it with olive oil. And listen, don’t even make that face until you’ve tried it. I read somewhere that one of the oldest women in the world lived to be 124 by drinking a glass of olive oil a day, so get it where you can! Ok, maybe not here because it is one of those unapologetic ice creams with lots of cream and sugar and egg yolks, but the olive oil definitely fools you into thinking you’re doing something good for yourself. Kind of like voting for a reality TV show host for president. Except eating ice cream won’t lead to the downfall of the world’s most powerful democracy. Anyway. If anyone is looking for me I’ll be hiding in a bunker drinking something stronger than olive oil until January 20th, 2021. 

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Lemon Olive Oil Ice Cream  (adapted from the New York Times Cooking Subscription)

4 large egg yolks
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1 cup granulated sugar
4 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt 
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup good quality fruity olive oil, plus more for serving
Flaky sea salt, for serving

Whisk egg yolks together in a medium bowl and set aside. Combine cream, milk, sugar, 3 teaspoons of the lemon zest and kosher salt in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar is dissolved and mixture just begins to bubble around the edges. Very slowly, in a thin stream at first, pour the warm mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then pour the egg and cream mixture back into the saucepan. Cook on medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until it thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon, taking care not to let the mixture boil. Strain through a fine mesh sieve into a large bowl.

Mix the olive oil and lemon juice together in a measuring cup, and slowly stream into the egg and cream mixture, whisking vigorously to make sure everything emulsifies (otherwise you’ll get bits of oil that have separated in the ice cream). Whisk in the 1 remaining teaspoon of lemon zest. Chill mixture completely in a bowl set over an ice bath, or in the refrigerator, at least 4 hours, or preferably overnight.

Once cooled and ready to go, give the mixture a good whisk again and churn in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer to a freezer-safe container and freeze until firm. Or sneak a little bowl as a taste test beforehand if you like, because it’ll be like a dreamy lemon soft serve. Serve scoops of ice cream with a drizzle of the fruity olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt.

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Without a doubt, the nicest ice cream I’ve ever made. Even my 4-year-old devoured it. Without the drizzle of olive oil and salt on top, although I have my doubts if that would have stopped him. It’s basically an ice cream that’s fun for the whole family, with or without the fancy-fanc. Or be like my next-door neighbour. I gave her a container of the stuff and she told me she loved it so much she’s hiding it from her teenaged son. And this is why we’re friends.

Wishing you clean hands, warm hearts, and full bellies. Stay well, chickens. xo

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Brown Butter Pandemicookies

A list of things I meant to accomplish during lockdown: Start running again. Learn one word of Spanish every day. Rise at 6 am every morning to journal at least three handwritten pages followed by twenty minutes of yoga followed by glass of room temperature water with a squirt of lemon followed by solitary piece of fruit for breakfast. Marie Kondo the house, do at least one load of laundry a day, clean the windows, dust all the baseboards, design a meal plan for peaceful family suppers using creative/nutritious/low-waste recipes even my 4-year-old who only eats bread, multi-grain cheerios and chicken ton katsu from Sun Sushi will enjoy. No reading social media or news during the week, fifteen minutes on Saturday and Sunday only. Get outside every day! Read at least one book a week. Catch up on all those arty indy films that have been on my list for years. Go dry for one month, I mean I’m not hanging out with anyone, how hard can it be?

Pretty fucking hard, it turns out.

An updated list of things that actually happened during lockdown: Two shots of espresso with cream and sugar every morning. Obsessive checking of Twitter-Facebook-Instagram-news on phone while kid watches two hours of kinda age-inappropriate cartoons. Bathrobe till 2 pm. Let 4-year-old eat toast most nights for supper in order to avoid rage at lovingly prepared home cooked meals. Mom and Dad eat takeout in front of Shark Tank for the third time in a week. Bottle of wine now lasts two nights instead of pre-pandemic three. I can’t fit into any of my pants.

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Ok, ok so there were some accomplishments I’m proud of. Trimmed Jude’s bangs without making him look like an early-sixties Beatle. Discovered the perfect secret beach for a fire and a boil up. Finally proofread the manuscript of that novel I’ve been writing for a hundred years. Hiked parts of the East Coast Trail I’ve never set foot on. Realized how much I’ve been neglecting that jar of mango chutney in my fridge and how good it is slathered on a grilled cheese. And made the most incredible batch of cookies out of whatever was in my baking cupboard. Those last two accomplishments being the main reason I can’t fit into any of my clothes. Except that one old maternity t-shirt.

Baking is a science so they say. Me, I’m like yeeeeah ok but not really for cookies. Definitely for soufflés, pastry, and sourdough (ok, ok, we get it GOOD FOR YOU), but with cookies you can get away with a bit more. I’ve been making these “Everything Cookies” for years, taking stuff out, adding stuff in, subbing in whatever, and they’ve been so good every time, even after coming out of my too-hot oven that can only bake everything at 400° despite being set at 150. This recipe just happens to be what worked out for me on this particular day. Brown butter is my latest pandemobsession so I always have some around now (see above re: maternity t-shirt). It ups the toasty, caramel-y flavour in a way that plain butter can’t. I had an extra egg yolk in the fridge, leftover from using an egg white wash for a homemade baguette, and the cookies turned out crispy on the edges and soft and chewy in the middle. But hey, now’s not the time to be picky. If the dough tastes good on the end of a spoon, chances are the cookies will be fine out of the oven. No time to brown butter and let it re-harden? Who cares, use regular. No unsalted butter? Big who cares, I always use salted anyway, even though that’s some kind of baking crime, because that’s what my mom and nan used, it’s what I grew up on, and hey guess what, it was actually margarine. No extra egg yolk, fine. Smooth, light, crunchy or natural peanut butter, fine. Quick-cook or old fashioned oats, fine. Not a coconut fan, leave it out, fine fine fine. Chocolate chips, mini eggs, chopped up peanut butter cups, or a mixture of all three work out great. If you want to sub in raisins…well. I mean, go for it, but don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Your friends are there for you. On Zoom, at least.

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Brown Butter Pandemicookies

1/2 cup softened brown butter (left to re-harden after melting)
1/2 cup natural peanut butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup oats
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp fine sea salt (omit or halve if using salted butter)
1 1/4 cup mini eggs
1/2 cup coconut

Preheat oven to 350°F. Cream together butter, peanut butter, and sugars. Mix in egg, extra yolk, and vanilla. Add flour, oats, soda and salt (if using) and mix till combined. Stir in mini eggs and coconut. Drop heaping teaspoonfuls onto a parchment papered or a lightly greased cookie sheet, pressing the batter down slightly with the spoon. Leave some space between cookies, they’ll spread a bit during baking. Bake for 10-12 minutes.

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Whether you’re running, eating, reading, baking, cartoon-bingeing, coffee-drinking, wine-imbibing, hiking, movie-watching, crying, laughing, writing the next great novel, or creating the next great ass-indentation in your couch, I hope it’s bringing you joy, and I hope you are all safe and sound. We’re getting there, chickens. xo

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The Longest, Hungriest Month of March

But we’re not waiting for the boats to make it through the ice in April to replenish our dwindling supplies, we’re waiting for friends and family to be allowed to walk through our front doors again. For a cup of tea and a piece of cake, for a meal and a laugh. For a hug on a bad day. The normal things we used to do just two weeks ago. What a sad, strange thing to have to be a part of. Something the likes of which our parents haven’t even experienced. 

Maybe our grandparents have. Lots of people in other parts of the world have, which might be the most humbling thing of all. 

A few days ago I went to the grocery store, gloved hands, pocketful of wipes in a ziplock baggie ready to prep the shopping cart, but there was an employee there, disinfecting all the carts. He passed me one and said, “There you go, all clean for you.” I thanked him and asked him how he was, how everyone who worked at the store was handling it all, and he said it was hard, that they all wanted to be home. I thanked him again, told him it was people like him that were keeping us going, and we both started to cry. That might have been the first time I’ve ever cried in a grocery store. Except that one time I was pregnant and couldn’t find any cilantro.

I can’t stop thinking about grandmothers. All the nonnas in Italy who are gone now, who may have had ten, fifteen, twenty years left with their families. All those stories, lost, all those skills and traditions and recipes that would have been passed on to kids and grandkids, gone. The nan I was closest with passed away five years ago and I still can’t believe she’s not here, but the idea of not having those last ten years with her takes my breath away.

Sometimes I get tired of only being motivated to make food and write about it when something bad happens. When a storm shuts down a city, when our neighbours to the south elect a lunatic, when the world feels so fraught all I want to do is drown myself in dessert. It’s a pattern I’ve only noticed with this latest round of bad news. But then I remembered this great thing that Sam Sifton wrote in his New York Times Cooking newsletter on the last anniversary of 9/11. I looked up it up today because I can’t quite put into words how I’m feeling these days, when it feels frivolous to want to make food and enjoy it when there’s so much fear and pain in the world right now. Sam says the day the attacks happened, he simply cooked for his family. “That act sustained me and sustains me still – this vain hope that if only we make food for one another and share it with open hearts we can push forward together in understanding, and together maybe make the world a better place. I don’t know if it works. I believe it does. So I’ll continue to do it, seeking grace in the meals, in the work of making them.” 

That’s all we can do right now, I guess. Feed yourself, feed your family. Pick up groceries for people who can’t so they can feed themselves. And do it with love and joy and hope. Knowing that summer picnics in a few months will be sweeter than they’ve ever been. They will! I can’t wait.

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Here’s my little offering of something that brought me joy this week, and I can proudly state that even my picky almost-four-year-old loved it…a moose adobo. Which felt weird at first. I mean, adobo is like jerk chicken, or kimchi, or homemade bread. Everybody has their own recipe that’s the best. And who am I to write about Filipino food? But I love it, and I used what was in my pantry and freezer instead of making an unnecessary trip to the grocery store. So let’s call it Filipino-Newfoundland-inspired-isolation-motivated-fusion-cooking. If you want to know more about adobo, just give it a random Google (like, what else do you have to do right now) because I’m not getting into it and please don’t yell at me. I do know that this (technically?) is an adobo sa gata, which means with coconut milk. How to cook an adobo is in itself a debate, but I used a slow cooker for my moose roast. You can do this same recipe in the oven low and slow and covered, about four hours; just keep an eye on how much liquid is evaporating and add more coconut milk when needed.

(Coincidentally, this was adapted from a Sam Sifton New York Times Cooking recipe for Chicken adobo. If you’re stuck at home and you can afford it, their app is fantastic. They’re doing some great stuff right now about what to cook and bake when you’re barred indoors with kids, or nice meals to make with basic or dwindling pantry staples.)

Slow Cooker Moose Adobo 

One small moose roast (that’s the best I can do, I know nothing about moose butchery)
1 can full-fat coconut milk
1/4 cup soya sauce
1 1/2 cups seasoned rice vinegar
12 cloves of garlic, peeled and slightly crushed
3 whole chilies, stems cut off (I used Fresnos, go hotter like bird’s eye if you prefer)
3 bay leaves
Salt and pepper

In a medium-sized saucepan, gently heat the coconut milk, soya sauce, vinegar, garlic and chilies. Heat a slightly oiled medium-sized frying pan, generously salt and pepper the moose roast, and sear it on all sides until a dark golden brown. Place the seared roast in the slow cooker. Deglaze the still-hot pan with a little of the coconut milk mixture from the saucepan, making sure to scrape up all the good crispy bits, and pour over the roast in the slow cooker. Pour the remaining sauce with chilies and garlic over the moose, put in the bay leaves, cover and set on low for 8 hours. Carefully remove the moose when done, and pour the sauce into a saucepan to reduce and thicken the liquid if you like. Put the moose back in the sauce, and serve alongside, or over rice.

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I used a small round slow cooker, not a giant oval one, so double the recipe if you’re feeding a crowd. Which you’re not right now, so don’t worry about it. You might want to add more coconut milk when reducing depending on your pucker preference…adobo is a vinegary flavour bomb, so it might take a few tries to nail it. Internet says Filipino palm vinegar is best, but white or cider can be used, too. Different brands of seasoned rice vinegar vary in sweetness…I sometimes add a tablespoon of Mirin to sweeten it a little, which is probably blasphemous, but I’m already adoboing moose. So.

Chickens. Please stay safe. Stay inside. Wash your hands. Cook with love. Do it for the nonnas, and everyone you hold dear. And do it now, so we can all sit on picnic blankets and drink wine in the summer sun. Together.

The brighter days are coming. xo

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SOE!! (State of Eternal Softpants)

Oh, you guys. What a marvellous, terrible week. Terrible for all the obvious reasons. Buried cars, the least of it, really. People going days without power and heat and food. Nurses working 50-hour shifts. Local businesses forced to shut, people going without pay, pedestrians leaping into snowbanks to avoid getting hit by cars, dogs leaping off snow mountains over fences and getting lost. We’re all coming out of this week a little weirder, and some of us a little sadder than when we went in.

But the SNOW FORTS. And the kind neighbours and taxi drivers. People organizing to shovel out cars and homes and knocking on doors to make sure families had enough to eat. Restaurants cooking thousands of free meals for the military and first responders and others in need. The organized and polite chaos of the grocery stores opening after four days with people handing each other two-litres of milk, passed from one hand to the next until they reached the hands of the people who couldn’t get near the cooler. And the quiet, carless streets that we could let our kid run down the middle of (hopefully not messing up the road safety rules I’ve been screaming at him for almost four years). The best thing about this week is that I could make a much longer list of good stuff than bad. And I guess that’s the reason why we’re insane enough to live here.

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Our place got off easy (not our car, oh sweet honourable, not our car). We lost internet and cable for a while, but miraculously kept our power in 145-kilometre winds, so we were a little scared, but safe and warm and had hot food. And the rest of the week? Man, I won’t lie, it was a braless, wondrous haze of caffeine and Pinot Grigio…not too much of course, I do have a kid. Justin and I basically took turns imbibing in case one of us had to slap on snowshoes and cart Jude on our backs to the Janeway, head split open or something from jumping off the couch the one time we really needed him not to. But listen, if I didn’t have a human to look after I’d be in a coma by now.

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I loved the week. I loved it. We started calling it Second Christmas. We started gaining Second Christmas weight. I can’t even abide stretchy jeggings anymore, it’s leggings or pyjama pants or track pants or get the hell out of my face. The three of us had to stay in or around our home, no one was allowed to go to work, and the kid had two parents home with him with no strings attached. He was feral and delirious and maybe the happiest I’ve ever seen him. There were too many treats, too many late bedtimes, too much television. But wow, the lazy mornings with endless cartoons and coffee were fun. We made jetpacks out of perrier bottles, jigged cod from the living room sofa, climbed snow hills like Spiderman. Jude’s always had a great imagination, but he upped his game so hard this week that at one point he passed me an empty box and said, “I’m a delivery man! I have a box of wine for you!” My heart near burst with pride.

I want the city to shut down (with pay and food and heat for everyone, obviously) for a week every January. Ban the cars from downtown and we’ll have a carnival in the streets with snowshoes and snowboards and boil-ups and twinkling lights. 

I’ve probably cooked and baked more this week than I did at Christmas (to reiterate, we were so lucky and didn’t lose power). I have a mother-in-law with a vicious talent for finding specials, so we have a well-stocked deepfreeze, and cooking a lot at home means our basic pantry is pretty good. But I learned enough about food security this week to now know without a doubt that:

1 – you always need more milk, eggs and butter than you think
2 – everyone should own a bread maker
3 – a tin of Carnation makes the best homemade mac and cheese
4 – the leftover milk from your kid’s bowl of multi-grain cheerios makes a deadly cappuccino

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I used my last cup of red wine to make a cake, thinking the liquor stores would open when the food stores did, but boy was that a mistake. I scrounged around in the basement when things became desperate and found some store-bought berry wines that someone had given us for Christmas. And like, not knocking berry wine or anything, I enjoy it out in the woods around a fire but not necessarily for hours on end during a state of emergency/Netflix binge. Some knowledgable friends who are basically NLC librarians suggested sangria, if I had apples and citrus. We eventually managed to get ourselves sorted and our regular wine supply replenished, so I decided on a second cake. Because we ate the first one that we were supposed to share with friends and neighbours. We ate the whole thing, two pieces each after supper every night, like we’d never see cake again. We even let Jude have a small piece or two, even though it’s red wine cake. But the baking burns off the alcohol. I think. I’m not sure. He’s sure been sleeping like a champ this week, though. 

Storm Cake with Cream Cheese Icing 

(Adapted from Food and Wine Magazine, icing from The Complete Magnolia Bakery Cookbook)

For the cake:

1/2 cup salted butter, melted, plus more for greasing
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp kosher or fine grain sea salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 cup Newfoundland berry wine, homemade or store-bought. I used Auk Island Winery’s 3 Sheets to the Wind (hahahaha)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease one 9-inch round cake pan. Whisk together flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk together sugar, egg, melted butter in a large bowl until pale and creamy, then whisk in cup of wine and vanilla. Add to flour mixture and whisk to combine. Scrape batter into prepared pan and bake until toothpick inserted in centre comes out clean, 40-45 minutes. Let cake cool completely before icing.

For the icing:

1 250g package of cream cheese, softened
3 tbsp salted butter
3/4 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups icing sugar

In a medium bowl, beat the softened cream cheese and butter until smooth. Add vanilla and beat well. Gradually add sugar, one cup at a time, beating continuously until smooth and creamy.

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A batch of this icing will generously frost two of these cakes; the first one I made I did the sides as well, but for the second I just dolloped it on top. Still though, yum! Who needs icing on the sides?! (I do. I want the icing everywhere, at all times. I just went a little too nuts with the first one.) This is the easiest cake you will ever make. And if you plan far enough in advance for the next storm, you’ll be able to have your wine and eat it too. 

Stay safe, stay warm, happy cooking and careful walking, chickens. xo

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Hello Dumplin’. Nice to See You.

It’s beeeeen aaaaa loooooong tiiiiiiiiime. Since the last blog (not entirely shocking) and also since the last time I ate kimchi mandu until my pants got too tight. In fact, the last time may have been the early 2000’s, when said pants were considerably smaller in size, and social media consisted of Mark Zuckerberg rating hot girls at Harvard. Oh, how the pants and the times have changed! The good news for me is I’ve finally broken down and given into jeggings which are almost as comfy as maternity jeans. And the good news for Mark Zuckerberg is he’s a GAZILLIONAIRE, it’s just too bad about the whole Facebook dismantling world democracies thing. Anyhoo. Dumplings!

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Didi and I both taught in South Korea yeeeeears ago, before Instagram was invented, so we’re not even sure if we’ve actually been there. But for the sake of this post, let’s say we were. Not together, a few years apart, but we both fell in love with kimchi mandu. Didi with the fried version up in Seoul and me with the steamed ones a bit further south in Daegu. If you’ve never had mandu, you may have had a version of them – think Japanese gyoza or Chinese dumplings – but in mandu the pork is mixed with kimchi. Which you won’t like the first time you try, but then will become obsessed with, until you’re eating it on scrambled eggs, in a grilled cheese, or as a condiment on hotdogs like I do. If you are a super star who really has it together in life, you can make it yourself! Or buy it in a jar from Sobeys like I do, because I just got my kid’s first baby picture framed and he is three and a half years old. 

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Didi had a package of dumpling wrappers in her freezer and we’d been talking about getting together for ages to make a giant pile of mandu, a project that would be too daunting (or boring, mostly) to do by oneself. Not that I haven’t been known to tackle a giant food project on a snow day, half a bottle of Chardonnay at my side, hours stretched out in front me like a good pizza dough. But then I had a kid. Now, snow days mean no day drinking (well…) and lots of praying to the kitchen gods for patience when my toddler doesn’t get how an extra teaspoon of baking soda will ruin the cookies, or how that cup full of dirty dish water he’s playing with won’t make the cake batter taste better. Like, what is his problem. Anyway, even though it wasn’t a snow day, when my mother-in-law Florence offered to watch Jude for the afternoon so I could have a proper cooking date, I ran away faster than Jason Kenney runs from an Alberta forest fire, or Andrew Scheer when he sees a gay pride parade. Hahahaha ok, yeah no, I’m definitely not THAT fast.

I showed up at Didi’s, breathless with excitement, thrilled at the prospect of not having to wrangle my child with hands covered in raw pork, and asked her, “Do you need to change your garbage? It smells in here.” Didi: “That’s the kimchi!” See? It’s a bit smelly. In Korea everyone has a regular fridge, and a mini kimchi fridge so it ferments just right and doesn’t stink out the rest of your food. But it’s so tasty. And healthy! According to Koreans, it’s the reason they didn’t all get SARS and bird flu back in the day. What? Stranger things have happened. Look at Boris Johnson.

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This recipe is one we cobbled together with some guidance from the interwebs, our own personal preferences, and the advice of the lovely woman who works down at the So Kee grocery on Duckworth Street. You can go a bit loosey goosey with ingredients depending on how garlicky/salty/kimchi-y you like things, but be mindful of water content and the fact that you can’t really season to taste because of the raw pork. I mean, you could? Bit risky. Kinda like going to a costume party with Justin Trudeau. 

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Kimchi Mandu

1 package round dumpling wrappers
1 1/2 cups kimchi, finely chopped and drained/squeezed of most of its liquid
250g extra-firm tofu, pressed and drained, and finely minced
200g rice vermicelli, cooked, cooled, and finely chopped
130g ground pork
1/2 an onion, finely chopped
1 egg
1 tsp fine sea salt
A few grinds of freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp finely minced garlic
Small bowl of water, for sealing dumplings

Combine all ingredients except wrappers in a large bowl, using your hands to mix. With clean, dry hands, place a wrapper in the middle of your palm and add about a teaspoon of filling. Dip your finger in the bowl of water and lightly wet the edges of the dumpling before sealing. Keep dumplings on a clean, non-stick surface until ready to cook. To pan fry dumplings, put some oil in a well-heated pan and brown them on one side, before adding enough water to cover the bottom of the pan and covering to steam for five minutes. The dumplings should be done when the water has evaporated. Add a bit more oil if you want to brown them on the other side, and make them extra crispy. To steam, place dumplings on parchment paper in a steamer and steam over boiling water for fifteen to twenty minutes. Serve with a Korean or Japanese dumpling sauce on the side.

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A few quick notes to keep in mind…don’t overstuff your dumplings! This will make sealing difficult, and they might burst during cooking. They’ll still taste good, but look messy and be harder to cook. Sealing and folding dumplings is a bit of an art form, so be patient and know that if you haven’t done it before, the first few will look stupid and you will want to cry, or maybe that was just me. There are a few ways to do them, and numerous tutorials online, but we stuck with the seal-and-fold and the tortellini style. The folded style are easier to pan fry, and the tortellini shapes are good for steaming, but they’ll turn out great either way as long as they’re sealed well and not overstuffed. Like how you’ll be after you can’t stop eating them because they are delicious and you will feel like a goddamn superhero after finally making them like you said you would seven years ago. Or maybe that was just me. And sauce is easy. Bit of soya sauce, rice vinegar, grated ginger and garlic, and chillies and sesame oil if you like. Chopsticks optional, fingers fine. These will disappear in a crowd, if you’re that kind of person who does things like make homemade dumplings for a dinner party, and frame pictures of your children before they go to kindergarten. Or you can freeze a bunch to cook for later because honestly, these are so good it was hard enough to share with Didi. You will definitely want to hoard them. Just be sure the pork wasn’t previously frozen, and if it was, cook the dumplings first, then freeze. Safety first! For pork, and for Halloween costumes. If you’re having any doubts, DON’T DO IT.

Happy dumpling making! xo

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An Ice Cream Blog for December! (Because the World is on Fire)

Oh hi! It’s been over a YEAR! I know what you’re thinking, so what’s up, she can’t handle full-time motherhood AND doing like, one post a month? And the answer to that, is no, I cannot. I’ve also recently joined Instagram (biggest mistake of my life after giving away all my maternity jeans), so along with feeling inadequate about not getting my shit together in the #momswhowrite category, I’m now painfully aware that I’m not taking my kid camping/hiking/swimming enough, I lie awake at night because I never offered him one single bath in rose petals when he was an infant, and WTF, I didn’t even pose for a pic with Jude strapped to me in a fashionable wrap, wearing skinny jeans, high heels and a fedora two weeks after giving birth (one hundred percent laziness on my part). I’m not gardening/pickling/fermenting enough, I’m not eating well-lit smoothie bowls on a windowsill, the list goes on and on and on. My sister is a cop who can break you in half with her bare hands and she posts some pretty kick ass pics of herself under #momswholift, and to follow suit I’m going to start my own support group on Instagram: #momswholifticecreamintotheirfaceholes. I think it’s a pretty succinct hashtag, and it’s weird that when I typed it in, not one single post exists. Until now, chickens!

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Which brings me to today’s lesson in how not to eat seasonally. Ice cream! I know, I know, I should have written this months ago when we were in the middle of that terrifyingly warm summer. That was the plan, but plans schmlans. Here we are on the precipice of what is sure to be a brutal winter (if you live in NL you’ll immediately understand that this is #payback), so fuck it! Ice cream can be a year-round kind of treat. Calm down y’all, I’m not asking you to take it snowshoeing and eat it outside in February. I’m talking about coming home after that hike in the woods, putting on the kettle and your favourite softpants, and spooning homemade vanilla bean ice cream over warm homemade brownies, a bread pudding, an apple crisp, or any of those desserts we gravitate to in winter. Not that I won’t pound the face off a good apple crisp in July, mind you. Sometimes it’s five degrees and you can do that (I’m looking at you, summer of 2015). I try to eat seasonally, but…it’s Newfoundland, man. If we tried to eat seasonally year round, we’d all get scurvy. So yes, I’m doing an ice cream blog in December. First off, because the weather in St. John’s during “the MOST wonderful TIME of the year” historically sucks and we could use some cold comfort (but like, good cold comfort). Second, because Newfoundland is being run by drunk toddlers and we’re going to turn into a giant oil slick covered in Sobeys bags. Third, there’s a racist, sexist, lunatic president next door, a drunk, rapey frat boy on the Supreme Court, and the earth is going to melt in 2040. So from now on I’m just going to eat and write whatever the fuck I want. 

There is NO TIME for shit ice cream, so put the kettle on, pour yourself a vat of wine, and we’ll get to it. 

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Justin gave me an ice cream maker about five years ago for my birthday which I took as a sign of true love because I was about to go up a few pant sizes. I’m only kidding! A little bit! In all seriousness though, homemade ice cream can be pretty decadent. Recently, a pal posted a pic on Instagram of his brand new ice cream maker and I was ecstatic for him and told him so. But because Instagram ruins everything, another follower of his commented that it was a fat machine and should only be used by endurance athletes. What the WHAT? Dude was a mountain biker, so I guess he gets to eat all the ice cream he wants, but don’t ruin it for the rest of us by telling us we’re going to get fat! Come ON, endurance athlete-man! Sometimes, when your toddler eats too many blueberries and then shits them all out in the middle of bath time, you don’t FEEL like going to a spin class afterwards, you just wanna shove ice cream into your facehole in front of Netflix, ok? Jesus Christ. The whole point is though, it doesn’t have to be decadent unless you want it to be (and that is goddamn ok). There are frozen yogurts if you want something lighter and healthy-ish, sorbets if you’re vegan, and eggless ice creams if you’re in a hurry or have an allergy. There is literally something for everyone, no matter what their preference or dietary restrictions. 

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So now that we have all the formalities out of the way, ok well, those weren’t formalities, that was just me shooting my mouth off. Anyways, sorbets and yogurts aside, there are pretty much two classic methods to make ice cream. There’s Philadelphia-style, which is basically mixing milk, cream and sugar together before churning. And then there’s the ever-so-slightly more involved French-style; this is the one that scares people because you have to temper egg yolks and make a custard. This used to terrify me, but I can do it now with my eyes closed while a toddler screams at me from across the room. Philly is great for beginners, and you still get a really lovely, light ice cream that is miles beyond anything you’ll buy at the grocery store (and will still impress the hell out of people when you give it as a gift or serve with dessert at a dinner party). But when you get your ice cream legs, you’ll never look back after your first perfect bowl of French-style vanilla ice cream. This recipe‘s a classic and has a great set of instructions for beginners. I made it a couple of days ago, except I only used 1 cup of cream and tossed in a half of cup of sour cream after I took the custard off the stove and it was so dreamy I almost passed out. 

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(A quick note on tempering eggs…pick whatever works for you and stick with it. You might feel more comfortable with a thermometer, but I go by feel, and nothing beats the old-fashioned coats-the-back-of-a-wooden-spoon method. And every recipe will tell you something different when it comes to how to mix the dairy and eggs. In the ice cream bible The Perfect Scoop, David Lebovitz is a fan of pouring the hot milk and sugar mixture into the egg yolks. Others recommend whisking all the sugar into the yolks before tempering. And still others will instruct you to put most of sugar in the eggs, and a little in the milk mixture. I’m not sure of the science behind it, and maybe some expert will read this and give me a blast of shit, but I’ve tried each method and ended up with good results each time. My favourite is one third of the sugar in the dairy and the rest in with the eggs. Because I’m a dork and there is nothing prettier than the pale yellow of egg yolks whisked together with sugar. And it somehow makes me feel more secure about pouring hot milk into the eggs, like they’re sturdier with the sugar mixed in. I don’t know. Also, pretty.)

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After experimenting with a sorbet or two, and mastering that whole tempering egg business, you’ll be ready to get a little crazy. Poke around online and you’ll find endless recipes that have the same vanilla-ish base, that will blow your mind after a few tweaks and additions. Imagine having friends over for dinner and when they ask what’s for dessert you get to say, “Guinness milk chocolate ice cream.” Like, that’s pretty fun. And with a bit more work you’ll end up with other gorgeous creations that are so worth the effort. Two favourites from this past summer, sour cream ice cream with strawberries and brown sugar, and mint chip straciatella, were a bit dependent on available produce and had a few extra steps, but when they were done, were up there with some of the best ice creams I’ve had anywhere, in any restaurant, in any country. Anywhere. And not to brag, which means I’m totally going to brag, but I’ve eaten ice cream in lots of places, in every flavour, shape and size. See Exhibit A.

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So here’s my very own original-ish recipe, with help from all the recipes I’ve made and played around with over the past five years. It’s not too sweet (up the sugar to one cup if you like), creamy but not too heavy (go nuts and toss in an extra egg yolk), a little bit tangy, so it’s the perfect ice cream to go with a chocolate lava cake, or on its own drizzled in hot fudge sauce and candied peanuts. Depending on the size of the berry, you’ll need 5-6 cups of raspberries to get the cup and a half of puree (zing them up in a blender and push through a fine mesh strainer with a spatula to get the seeds out). Local and fresh is always best, but wow are raspberries ever a huge pain in the ass to pick, and so expensive to buy. It’s fine to use frozen raspberries; they’re much cheaper, and you can buy big bags of nice organic ones that will get the job done. I used homemade vanilla extract made with vodka, but feel free to use the regular stuff, or even some vanilla flavoured vodka. When you’re making fruity ice creams things can get a bit icy, and the booze helps it not to freeze too hard.

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Raspberry Sour Cream Ice Cream

1 cup full-fat milk
1 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup sour cream
3/4 cup sugar
Pinch of kosher salt
3 large egg yolks
1 1/2 cups strained raspberry puree
1 tbsp vanilla extract or vanilla vodka

In a medium size bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and 1/2 cup of the sugar until the mixture is thick and a lovely pale yellow colour. Set aside on a damp dishcloth or towel (this will help the bowl to stay put when you’re with whisking later). Combine milk, whipping cream, the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar, and pinch of salt in a medium size heavy-bottomed saucepan. Bring just to the boil over medium-high heat. Slowly, starting as just a trickle at first, pour the warmed milk mixture into the eggs, whisking constantly. Pour the combined milk and egg mixture back into the saucepan, and over low to medium heat, stir the mixture constantly until it’s thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon (be patient with this, and don’t crank the heat to speed things up; the mixture must not boil or you’ll end up with scrambled eggs).

Pour the custard through a fine mesh strainer into a large bowl. Stir in raspberry puree, vanilla extract/vodka) and sour cream. Let it cool slightly before placing it in the refrigerator to chill completely. Ideally overnight, but a few hours will do. (if you’re really pressed for time, stir over an ice bath in a larger bowl before placing in fridge). Churn in your ice cream maker according to the instructions, and store in your freezer in a good airtight container.

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Chickens, that was fun. I’m hoping to spend a bit more time on the blog over the holidays. The goal is to to get it up and running with a new look so I can fool people into thinking I’m a tech-savvy, Instagram-friendly millennial with long blond layered hair and not a forty-something mom with the computer skills of a squirrel monkey who, to be honest, has a bit of a Keith Urban mullet happening at the moment, after a year and a half of trying to grow out a bleach blond pixie cut I got last summer in a fit of rage at my hair falling out after childbirth. Anyhoo, hopefully, we’ll see you before too long. And remember, we’re all going to melt in 2040, so get off your mountain bikes and get on some ice cream.  xo

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Rhubarb-Tarragon Strudel (Or, How I Went into Labour)

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It wasn’t the plan, but I was reading a food magazine when my contractions started. Here’s the thing. Every pregnant woman has a “birth plan” in her head, even if she won’t admit it. Mine was more like a “birth fantasy”, if you will. A fantasy that, statistically speaking, would NEVER HAPPEN. Kind of like a “winning the lottery” fantasy, the one where you take all your friends to the Maldives for a month before a luxury safari in Tanzania followed by buying your dream home in the south of France. There was a better chance of all of that happening than there was of my birth fantasy coming true: power walking around Quidi Vidi lake on a warm March afternoon to induce labour, breathing and pushing an hour later at the hospital to “Bad Girls” by M.I.A. followed by a surprisingly quick and drug-free childbirth.

I know. I was that pregnant lady. I was even annoying to myself.

The reality. Me on the sofa reading a food magazine and my contractions starting 2 minutes apart. Barking orders at Justin and my mom to “GET MY FLIP FLOPS OUT OF MY GYM BAG AND PUT THEM IN THE HOSPITAL BAG I NEED MY FLIP FLOPS.” Driving to the hospital thinking “WTF who does this without drugs.” Hobbling across the parking lot holding onto Justin while repeating, “I’m definitely getting the epidural.” Not in the door two minutes screaming at the nurses, “get me the epidural” etc. etc. Which, by the way, along with finally getting an ice cream maker, was the best decision of my life.

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I will obviously spare you the rest of the details because this is a food blog, even though women love telling their delivery stories because COME ON how could you not, look at what you just did, sister! But I recently had a go at the recipe I guess you could say induced my labour. I was looking at a picture of this exact strudel when my contractions started, which is kind of cool. And that, my friends is the weirdest sentence I have ever written.

So if any of you happen to be pregnant, I share with you all my best wishes for a quick and painless delivery, complete with all the drugs and pineapple popsicles you can handle (no seriously, get the epidural, if your kid’s head is as big as mine’s is, you’ll need one).

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Rhubarb-Tarragon Strudel (from the April 2016 edition of Food Network Magazine)

For the compote:

2 sprigs tarragon
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 pound rhubarb, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (I used 4 cups)

For the strudel:

6 oz cream cheese (I used one standard 226g package)
2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar, plus more for topping
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds scraped
7 sheets frozen phyllo dough, thawed
1 1/4 sticks (10 tbsp) unsalted butter, clarified*
2 tbsp chopped fresh tarragon
1 tbsp granulated sugar, plus more for topping

*To clarify butter (prevents strudel from getting soggy), melt it over medium-low heat until the milk solids separate and rise to the top, 3 to 5 minutes. Let cool, then skim off the white foam and discard. Spoon the remaining clear butter into a bowl, and discard the solids left at the bottom of the pan.

1. Make the compote: Combine the tarragon sprigs, granulated sugar and 1 3/4 cups water in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil and stir until the sugar dissolves. Add the rhubarb, reduce the heat to low and cook until softened but not falling apart, about 3 minutes. Strain the rhubarb over a bowl, reserving the liquid (keep the rhubarb in the strainer to drain completely while assembling the strudel).

2. Make the strudel: Preheat the oven to 425°F. Pulse the cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar, flour and vanilla seeds in a food processor until just combined.

3. Lay out 1 phyllo sheet on a clean dry surface (keep remaining phyllo covered with a slightly damp kitchen towel). Brush lightly with the clarified butter and sprinkle with 1 tsp of chopped tarragon and 1/2 tsp granulated sugar. Layer another sheet of phyllo on top with more butter, tarragon and granulated sugar. Repeat the layering with the remaining phyllo; do not top the final sheet. Cut the stack of phyllo in half crosswise. Reserve the remaining clarified butter (about 1 tbsp).

4. Put each phyllo on a piece of parchment paper that’s slightly larger than the stack. Position the stacks with the long sides facing you. Divide the cream cheese mixture between the stacks, spreading it in a 2-inch-wide strip along the edge closest to you; leave a 1-inch border at the bottom and the sides. Spoon the rhubarb pieces over the cream cheese filling. Starting from the side closest to you, use the parchment to lift the phyllo and roll tightly around the filling to make two logs; arrange seam-side down. Transfer the strudels (on the parchment) to a baking sheet.

5. Brush the strudels with the reserved clarified butter and sprinkle generously with granulated sugar. Bake until golden brown and crisp, 15-20 minutes. Meanwhile, bring the reserved rhubarb liquid to a boil in a saucepan. reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until syrupy, about 15 minutes.

6. Let the strudels cool 10 minutes on the baking sheet. Slide the strudels (on the parchment) onto a rack; let cool 45 minutes. Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar and drizzle with the rhubarb syrup.

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Here’s what went wrong, because that’s what happens sometimes with recipes (and birth plans ha). I chucked the rhubarb in with the water and sugar before reading the recipe and realizing I had to bring the sugar water to a boil before adding the rhubarb. No biggie, I don’t think it made much of a difference. But I did overcook the rhubarb, it really does only take 3 minutes because it cooks again in the oven. I’m not sure about that whole “don’t top the final phyllo sheet” business…when I tried to spread on the thick cream cheese mixture the top layer started to rip because it was dry. So I’d say top the last layer if you have enough. Which I didn’t, so brushing the completed strudels was done with regular microwave-melted butter because who’s going to clarify another batch when you’ve been at this three hours? I had to read the fourth step about a dozen times before I could work my brain around it. I may have had to google “crosswise” and found this handy dandy article which was very helpful except I was cutting phyllo and not brussels sprouts. And what if my phyllo was turned the other way around around, hmmm? What would happen then, Food Network? It’s safe to say I’ll never work at NASA. Anyway. Cut your phyllo down the long side.

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I need to bake desserts in my awful oven at around 225°F, so it took closer to an hour instead of 20 minutes. Keep that in mind if you have an infuriatingly hot oven like mine, because the bottom of the strudel will darken quickly and the rest will be soggy. And I left off the icing sugar because really, you don’t need it with sugar sprinkled on top and then syrup.

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The biggest almost-disaster was not realizing how tall my kid is. There were two of us on duty and I still almost lost the nearly-completed phyllo layers from the kitchen table in the five seconds there wasn’t a set of eyes on Jude the Destroyer.

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I won’t lie, this one was a bit of an effort. I haven’t attempted a recipe this herculean since long before baby was born. And it’s not exactly the kind of thing you can throw together while simultaneously trying to keep a toddler from eating things out of the garbage can. But even with all the mistakes, it was beautiful. Definitely the kind of dessert you can afford to mess up a little and call it rustic. I love weird sweet-herby dessert combinations, but cut back on the tarragon if you’re scared, or leave it out completely (but don’t, it’s so lovely and licorice-y). This recipe makes such an obscene amount of strudel we had to give a chunk away, ate it three nights in a row for dessert, and still had some left to put in the freezer. And that worked out too, warmed low and slow in the oven a couple of weeks later. Imagine dying for something sweet some night and thinking there’s nothing in the house and then remembering there’s something in your freezer that’s flaky and made with cream cheese and rhubarb. That moment of realization alone was worth the three hours of strudel construction. With a cup of decaf Tetley before bedtime? Come on. Or similarly, make it a few weeks in advance of some dinner party you’re hosting. You can defrost it before everyone arrives, and they’ll show up with sweet strudel smells wafting out the front door to greet them. Everyone’s impressed with what you’ve just accomplished and no one’s the wiser. Hey, kind of like getting the epidural and not telling anybody afterwards! Either way, you end up with a great dessert/baby.

Happy cooking, badasses.

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