Category Archives: Cookery

busyness: make yer own ice cream

One of the lovely ladies in my book club had a baby earlier this summer, and so I offered to host a baby meet and greet. Just for the hell of it, I called it an ice-cream social, because I’ve always liked the sound of that, and lo and behold, the universe gave me this gift: Three-ingredient no-ice-cream-maker-required ice cream. Where one of the ingredients is sweetened condensed milk, aka the best food in the universe. And the other is whipping cream, and the other is whatever your little heart desires.

Ice cream in progress

Ice cream in progress

My choice for flavours were: Nutella, banana, nectarine-cherry (pictured above), and popcorn (because why not). They came together in about ten minutes flat, and only took that long because I used the hand mixer rather than electric. They froze pretty hard, and greatly benefitted from a fifteen-minute thaw on the counter, but oh my were they good. Nutella was far and away the most popular flavour because Nutella, but popcorn ran a close favourite.

Yeah. So that’s my new favourite dessert.


busyness: in praise of big-batch cooking

Because of the young child and working full time thing and wanting to have a life, I don’t have as much time for cooking any more. Which is okay. That time will return, probably sooner than I expect it to (Baby Bear is growing so fast). Until that day, I am in love with cooking tons of food at a time and then freezing it for later. I am so in love with it that I am trying to encourage others – among other tidbits of advice I gave my newly-expecting sister-in-law, I recommended getting a freezer. For food stashing.

Today was my first day of vacation and I spent the morning cooking up a storm of lasagna:

lasagna assembly line

lasagna assembly line

It is not all for us; a couple will be going to some new parents/parents-to-be. Because if there’s anything that I really appreciated and want to pay forward, it was all the meals that people made for us when the Bear was newly home and occupying all our time and attention.

This lasagna is great – it is a friend’s mother’s recipe and I have it handwritten in a grimy notebook, but I don’t even need to check anymore because it is so flexible and easily doubled (or tripled, or quadrupled). Basically just onion, ground beef, and tomato sauce – add whatever veggies and seasoningsĀ suit your mood; I usually grate up a zucchini or two and add some green peppers and mushrooms, and throw in some Worcestershire sauce and a spoonful or two of pesto. Cook that till the meat is browned, the veggies are soft and the sauce is bubbling. The cheese layer is a tub of cottage cheese, an egg, some grated Mozzarella cheese and a thawed-out pack of frozen spinach with the water squeezed out. I’ll add a dash of nutmeg for the spinach if I’m feeling fancy. Then get your oven-ready lasagna noodles, layer it whichever way pleases you best, top with more grated Mozzarella, and bake at 350 degrees F till the cheese is browned and it’s hot through the middle. Perfecto.

Busyness: Cookery

On that terrible rainy weekend at the end of June, it was so cool out I decided to make strawberry jam.

I have fond memories of making jam with my mom and my grandmothers, though somehow my memory tends to omit the sheer godawful amount of time it takes to make old-fashioned jam (that is to say, no pectin). Because to get strawberries, sugar, and a splash of lemon juice to stop being chunky syrup and start being lovely spreadable jam involves a long time of slow boiling. And oh the steam from the boiling water to sterilize the jars! Good thing it was cool out.

While I was waiting for the jam to get to that magical point of doneness, I thought about the concept of done. When I first started cooking in earnest after heading off to university, I begged some favourite recipes from my grandmother – handwritten, and often with cryptic instructions like “boil until it looks right” or “bake until done.” And this drove me nuts. I had no idea what that meant. Ditto bread recipes, with their “knead till stretchy,” and of course jam recipes, with “slow boil” and “gelled” or “set.”

Of course it turns out that all of these instructions make perfect sense – with experience. After making bread a handful of times, suddenly I did know the point when the dough had been worked enough. You can feel it in your hands that it’s stretchy and springy and ready to rise. Same thing with the jam. After a couple of slogs, I could see that it was getting thicker and was gelling on the back of the spoon as I stirred.

And it occurred to me that it’s like anything as you gain expertise, that you get to the point of experience and you just know. So good logo designers know when they’ve got it right and can stop fiddling, and good website designers know when they’ve reached the best user experience.

Me? I doubt that I’ll get there – I’ll stick with jam instead.

jam station

“Strawberry Jam” by Michelle Shocked

Old fashioned strawberry jam