Food

Pad-Thai Inspired Soup

Soup is the ultimate food and no, I’m not taking feedback on that opinion. And while my family is saying its starting to get too warm for it, I don’t agree and will continue to feed them soup for as long as I can get away with it.

This is one of my favourites, it’s a pantry staple friendly chicken and rice soup that takes its inspiration from pad thai with absolutely no authentic quality to it. It’s endlessly riffable, the kind of thing you can skip, substitute, and add ingredient to with little chance of failure. I’ve made it with only rice, only chicken, with mushrooms and veggie stock for a vegetarian option.

Pad Thai Inspired Chicken and Rice Soup

4-5 chicken breasts (or thighs, both work)

1/2 onion (or 2 shallots)

4(+) cloves of garlic

6 c liquid (all broth, all water, half and half, run wild)

1/2 c white rice

1 tsp soy sauce

1tsp rice wine vinegar

2 tbs crunchy peanut butter

siracha to taste

1 inch fresh ginger + 1 tbsp sugar

cilantro, lime juice, green onion

  • in a large pot or dutch oven, add onion, garlic and chicken and cover with liquid. bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer and let cook for about 20 minutes or until chicken is cooked
  • remove chicken (shred and set aside), remove and discard onion, smash garlic into broth
  • bring broth up to a boil, reduce to simmer and add rinsed rice. let cook for 20ish minutes
  • chop ginger and cover with sugar and enough hot water to cover
  • when rice has cooked add soy sauce, vinegar, sriracha, and peanut butter. Stir in ginger and sugar water
  • return chicken to pot, let warm through
  • serve with lime juice, cilantro, and green onion

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Weekly Updates

5 things this week: March 1-7

five things I’ve loved, hated, read, made or heard this week

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D Vance

I picked this book up from the library a couple of weeks ago, as I had heard it mentioned a few times and I love memoirs. While from a literary standpoint it wasn’t the best I’d read (that award probably goes to Tara Westover’s ‘Educated‘) it was a very special insight into an under examined community. We hear the phrase ‘white working class’ thrown out a lot in politics right now, but rarely to we hear what that’s supposed to mean. Vance’s examination of his ‘hillbilly’ roots, the cultural, social, and economic issues of the Rust Belt and Appalachian Mountains is more personal than political, more ethnography than sociological study, though he does well sighting existing evidence to support the conclusions he draws. In a political landscape that seems to be lacking in empathy, this book is a good start to understanding lives seemingly so different from our own with compassion and patience.

Marbled Banana Bread – Smitten Kitchen

I love banana bread, and this plain one or the marbled one from Smitten Kitchen are unmatched in my book. This time I added instant coffee and a bit of cold brew to the chocolate batter, and I was sad to send the rest of the loaf with my sister!

Gaslighter – The Dixie Chicks

A much awaited new release to one of my all time favourite bands, I was excited for the first single off The Dixie Chicks upcoming album (due out in May). This lead single is a clear nod to 90’s and early 2000’s country, a contrast to the more ‘pop’ country sounds that have dominated country radio for the past decade or so. However The Dixie Chicks have a fraught relationship with the country music machine so it’s unclear if their return will be welcome in that corner of the broader music scene. But with this solid breakup track leading the way, I’m excited for more.

Green Smoothies

My smoothie kick actually started in December, when I showed up to cook Christmas dinner with a friend drinking an electric green smoothie that was more spinach than anything else. It has continued though, because nothing makes me feel healthier and also I hate breakfast. My go to is frozen berries (blueberry or blackberry are usually what we have around, peanut butter, orange juice, and as much spinach as I can fit in.

The Body Shop Vitamin E Broad Spectrum SPF 30 Sunscreen

I’m a big believer in daily sunscreen, but it doesn’t always sit well underneath makeup. I picked this one up in the big sale Body Shop was having a few weeks ago, and have been really happy with it. It absorbs well and doesn’t feel too greasy, and I don’t feel like its majorly affected how my foundation wears! As I have really sensitive skin, I’m pretty wary of a lot of new products and don’t get along well with many of sunscreens so I’m happy to have one this gentle around as the sun really starts to come out.

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Food

apple & cranberry crumble pie

Its pie season, the best kind of dessert season. We don’t eat pumpkin pie or apple pie in my family sadly, my life is full of pecan pie that I lobby against every year to no avail. However, just because it won’t be on my thanksgiving table doesn’t mean I can’t take it to a different thanksgiving. Honestly the best part of ‘friendsgivings’ is that there are no limits, multiple meals means multiple menus. So this pie (and some veggies) came to one friendsgiving already and is headed to another (along with this BA pumpkin pie) tomorrow. Its tart enough to not get lost in the richness of seasonal desserts, filled with warm spices to make it feel like autumn in the best way, and fuss free thanks to a crumble topping that saves you from latticing pie crust until you cry.

I love this pie crust from Erin McDowell (the pie queen, I am very excited for her upcoming pie cookbook), and this video is great for really showing each step! I like to leave mine in the fridge for a day or two so it’s nice and cold and saves time when it comes to assembling and baking.

pie crust

1 pie crust (the recipe above, or any other)

  • par-bake pie crust until just taking on colour (about 20 minutes in a 400 degree oven) – this will keep the bottom of the pie from getting soggy from the filling and help it travel well
  • let cool before filling

filling

3 medium tart apples (peeled and sliced)

2 c cranberries

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp cardamom

1/2 c brown sugar

3 tbs butter

2 tbs cornstarch

  • in a large pan on the stove, melt butter and add spices and sugar
  • add in cranberries and apples, cook until cranberries have burst and apples have softened
  • add cornstarch tbs at a time until filling is thick, but still easy to stir

crumble topping

1/4 c brown sugar

1/4 c demerara sugar (or granulated sugar if you don’t have it)

4 tbs butter

1 c oats

1/2 tsp of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom

  • combine in bowl, rubbing in butter until crumble forms

assemble and bake

  • pour filling into pie, and top with crumble in the middle
  • in a 400 degree F oven, bake for 20 minutes or until crumble is golden. If using a glass pie pan, crust will have take on colour
  • let cool before slicing, but the filling should hold its shape to slice. best with ice cream and or spiced whipped cream

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Food

peanut butter & chocolate tart

This tart was my Dad’s birthday dessert, because I knew there was no going wrong with chocolate and peanut butter. The filling is inspired by peanut butter buttercream, which I have seen him eat straight from the mixer, but with cream cheese to play up the texture and tang from peanut butter. This isn’t a particularly sweet dessert, but you could easily make it a little more sweet tooth friendly by using milk chocolate for the ganache!

This tart crust is my absolute favourite, it’s just about fool proof and the foil trick (from Smitten Kitchen) is a million times better than dealing with pie weights. You could do it by hand, or with a pastry cutter, but a food processor makes the trickiest part of this dessert much faster!

Tart Crust

1 1/4 c flour

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 c powdered sugar

1/2 c (one stick) cold butter, in pieces

1/2 tsp vanilla

  • preheat oven to 350
  • in the bowl of food processor, combine first three ingredients until mixed
  • add butter and vanilla, blitz until combined and dough comes together
  • set aside marble sized piece of dough (for future repairs)
  • press dough into tart or pie pan, coming all the way up the sides and getting dough as even as possible
  • freeze for 10-15 minutes
  • prick with fork all over and up sides
  • press lightly oiled foil onto dough, no pie weights needed
  • bake for 15 minutes covered, then slowly peel off foil and bake for another 5, crust should be lightly golden
  • chill tart case

Peanut Butter Filling

1/2 c cream cheese

2 tbs butter

1/4 c powdered sugar

3/4 c peanut butter (I microwave the jar to make it easier to measure)

1/2 tsp vanilla

  • beat all ingredients together in the bowl of a stand mixer (or really really hard by hand) until fluffier
  • chill until ready to fill crust
  • scrape into cooked and chilled crust, smooth into an even layer, place in freezer for 10 minutes

Chocolate Ganache

1 c semi sweet chocolate chips

1/2 c heavy cream

  • in a small saucepan or microwave safe bowl, slowly melt until incorporated
  • let cool slightly
  • pour over cold tart
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Travel

Northern Ireland

I leave England in a few weeks, after four incredible years. However despite living in the northwest all this time, I had never made it to Northern Ireland, so Qas and I made a short last minute trip over to Belfast and the coastline as a break from the stress of grad school. We were only there for two days (two nights and an early morning flight) and while we could have filled another day we managed to fit everything in just fine.

On the first day (having landed at Belfast International at 7am on about an hour of sleep) we did a day trip up the Antrim Coastline, and were blessed with wonderful weather. While I’m too motion sick to tell you how beautiful the drive was (it seemed lovely), every stop was breathtaking. Sadly last year the Irish countryside wasn’t as green as you’d imagine when people say ‘the Emerald Isle’ thanks to a killer heatwave, but this year the hills and cliff sides lived up to their name. Our tour stopped by Carrickfergus Castle, the Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge (which we did not walk across, and were happy to have saved the £10 – it’s pretty but not actually all that long and the coastline is pretty enough to enjoy without it), the Giant’s Causeway (which we did a wonderful walking tour of), and the Dark Hedges.

The second day we used one of the hop-on-hop-off bus tours, only getting mildly damp as the irish weather caught up to us. While they are pretty touristy, these busses are also a great value for money when it comes to getting around a city that is too spread out to be easily walkable. One of the main places we wanted to go was the Parliamentary Building, Stormont (hello yes we are both politics nerds) which is pretty far to the East, and this bus tour made it an easy trip.

Sadly due to the pouring down rain we didn’t get to stop and really walk the Peace Wall and look at murals, but did get to drive along it. Our tour did go through the neighbourhoods on either side of the wall, where peace gates still close from 7pm-7am, where you can see lots of murals ranging from peace monuments, memorials to those who died, to plenty of paramilitary murals. We then did the tour at Crumlin Road Gaol, a famous prison that closed in 1996. It was a great tour, very serious without getting into the politics of the conflict but acknowledging the suffering that took place within the prison walls. Also, the bus tour gets you £2 off your ticket which combines with a student discount, which was really nice.

We went to see St. Anne’s the (Protestant) cathedral in the city center, and timed it right to attend the evening prayer service. During the day you do have to pay to tour the cathedral, but if you attend a service you obviously get to see the church as well.

We had two great dinners in Belfast, at The Bootlegger and Fish City. We spent a few hours on our last night in The Duke of York (which has a giant whiskey selection neither of us could tell you about). Our AirBnB was great, about a half hour walk from the city center or a quick £6 uber ride, super clean and an great deal.

Transport to and from the airport is incredibly easy, a 30-45 minute bus ride you can pick up in the city center and just outside the airport for £12 both ways.

There’s a million other wonderful things to do in Belfast, from museums to the Black Cab tours that delve into the politics of the city, that we would have loved to do, but for a short trip and terrible weather we saw enough to make it a really wonderful trip.

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Food

blueberry cardamom scones

scones are the kind of baking you can do half asleep before anyone else is awake without sacrificing much sleep yourself, which means they are probably the only baked good anyone wakes up to in my house. Luckily they’re endlessly riffable and everyone loves a scone, so I haven’t heard any complaints.

blueberry muffins are one of the best foods on earth, but blueberry scones don’t always have the same magic. These scones are dense but soft, and lean away from the buttery sugary richness of muffins into a less sweet and layered flavour that passes as a breakfast food a little easier.

Blueberry Cardamom Scones

2 c flour

2 tbs baking powder

2-3 tbs sugar (adjustable as to how sweet you’d like these to be, also good without sugar in them and just the glaze or sugar on top)

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp cardamom

2/3 c butter, cubed and cold

1 c blueberries

1/2 c dair (milk, heavy cream, or a mixture of milk with greek yogurt – the later two lends extra moisture to the scones)

  • mix dry ingredients, then rub in cold butter until fully combined. Mixture should hold together when squeezed, but not have visible pieces of butter remaining
  • add milk/cream, bit by bit, until dough fully forms. As it does, fold in blueberries, trying not to overmix.
  • turn out onto a floured surface, and pat into a circle about 1/2 inch thick. Cut into 8 triangles. Place on baking tray lined with parchment paper

before baking top with raw sugar or after cooled top with the glaze below

  • bake at 350F for 15 minutes, until edges pick up colour

Cardamom glaze

  • 1/2 tsp cardamom
  • 1/3 c powdered sugar
  • milk

in a small bowl slowly add milk to combined sugar and cardamom until thick glaze forms. after scones are cooled top with glaze

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Food

peach jam

If summer was a fruit, it would be a peach. It’s peaches from road side stands all over the city, the strange feeling of peach fuzz against your tongue, peaches over vanilla ice cream.

It turns out even though peaches don’t grow all over england like they do central texas, summer is still peach season and therefore there have been peaches in my kitchen non-stop for a month now. Occasionally creative things are done with them, savory dishes, interesting salads, but mostly they’re eaten over the sink with juice dripping everywhere, as god intended.

However, a large number of peaches were made into jam this summer as the filling for this chocolate and peach cake I made for a friend’s birthday. It had been a while since I’d made a layer cake, and to go all out and make the jam as well. And while peach and chocolate may sound like a strange combination, they absolutely work wonders together.

This recipe made 2 jars of jam (someday I’ll measure things, but today is not that day). Most of one went into the 3 layers of cake, so it’s one you could easily cut in half if needed. Peaches don’t have quite the pectin content of something like berries, so there is a fair amount of lemon juice in here.

  • 4 (ish) lbs of peaches (peeled and cut)
  • 3 c white sugar
  • 3 tbs lemon juice

to peel peaches: boil a large pot of water. Cut an ‘x’ into the bottom of each peach. Drop peaches into the boiling water for 30 seconds, then place directly into cold water. This should help the peel come off easily. If not, turns out a vegetable peeler works pretty well (thanks Q for peeling all the peaches that went inside the cake)

Remove pits and cut peaches into pieces, (quarters or slices work).

Add all ingredients to a large pot and stir till combined, bringing to a simmer. Let simmer for 20-30 minutes, peaches will fall apart. From here, begin the wrinkle test (I do this by putting a spoon or two in my freezer while the mixture comes to a boil and then testing if the jam sets when dropped onto it), jam should come up to about 220F if you like to measure things by temperature.

When the jam is set, feel free to run an immersion blender through it (off heat) if you want it smoother.

Store in sealing jars, or can if you so desire!

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