Magic Happens

The weather has been glorious here. People in Victoria love to talk about the weather more than almost anything else (except also the Queen and traffic and changes to bridges and ferry prices), but coming from Calgary, where the snow has literally come down in June, I’ve never felt much inclined to join in the rain-bashing. This year, though, the winter really hit me and I realized it has to do with the utter dearth of sunlight. In Alberta, sure, it snows all the time and the temperature goes down to -40 with a windchill, but we have chinooks, and you see the sun every day. But spring is around the corner and we’re planning our vegetable garden (the only kind of gardening I care about) and there are weddings and trips to look forward to.

This past weekend two of my best friends came out for a lady weekend here with Heidi and I. We all met our first days in residence – we were all on the same floor, even – and I don’t know, magic happens when we’re together. For example, here is a picture of Michelle and I when we were 21, and therefore at the very pinnacle of our hotness:

yikes

Usually this magic is aided by delicious food and drinks. We went to a fantastic wine-tasting event, ’cause we’re classy like that. It ended rather…messily, but not before we had some amazing Vancouver Island wines and also a lot of burgers.

We also had this unfortunate collection of drinks, which was just as cough-syrupy as it looks but we drank it, damnit. Yes we did.

awfuldrinks

Aside from that, we mostly just talked — about horrible, hilarious memories, about all kinds of relationships, about our health, about everything. It’s what we do. We made a fancy dinner on Saturday (mushroom and pancetta risotto, total adult comfort food) and Heidi teased me about my bossiness in the kitchen.

I have many strengths — I can say the alphabet backwards (and I will tell you that a lot when I’m tipsy), I am super cheerful in the morning (Mark gives me a wide berth because I always want to talk about all the hours that passed while we were sleeping), I can almost always tell you the correct time, give or take a few minutes, without looking at a watch — but passivity around cooking is not one of them. I admit it, I love to order people around in the kitchen, kind of like Anthony Bourdain, but with more hair and slightly less cursing.

To wit, here are a bunch of food-related items I want to tell you about and really, you should just listen to me and make/eat them.

I know I talk about Smitten Kitchen all the time and so does everyone else, blah blah blah. But there is a reason why Deb has made such a name for herself, and the reason is that she is almost fanatical about choosing recipes and streamlining them. I have not made a single thing from her website that has let me down. This raspberry buttermilk cake is such a good example of the kinds of things she posts — simple but delicious, and the kind of thing that really tricks people into thinking you’re just an awesome effortless cook who wears adorable aprons and can whip stuff like this up with her eyes closed. I love you, Deb.

raspberrybuttermlkcake

Something we make all the time is this (admittedly hilariously-named) glory bowl. It’s from one of the Whitewater Cooks recipe books, which I don’t yet own, but if a certain nameless ginger man was reading this, he might consider surprising me with it some time. The best thing about this recipe is that I hardly ever follow it. I use the basic components — rice, greens, shredded vegetables, delicious sauce — and just add whatever I have around. Sometimes we grill up some tofu for added protein, but you could add leftover chicken or any kind of meat, really. I love avocado, so that usually goes in. I don’t really like beets, so I substitute cucumber instead, and usually peanuts for the almonds. I pretty much put every single Chinese condiment I have into the sauce, and though it never tastes the same twice, I like it that way. We also keep all the elements separate in the fridge, and then amalgamate them just before serving. Guys, just make this.

glorybowl

A few other recipes I adore:

Ginger Fried Rice, from Smitten Kitchen. This is one of those meals I love to eat when Mark is out, for some reason, even though he also really likes it. Sometimes I add sweet Chinese sausage, if I have some around.

We made these crispy potatoes the other morning for brunch, when all the girls were over. Delicious and oddly impressive.

Ina Garten is a gem and a national treasure. This turkey lasagna is off the hook, and really easy to make, since you don’t have to boil the noodles, just soak them in really hot water (something I will always do in the future. Why does boiling lasagna noodles seem like such a big deal?). Watch the salt on this one — I tend to want more salt in almost everything, but this was a little too much for me.

This article on making perfect boiled eggs of varying consistencies is so over-the-top in terms of research that it makes me laugh and also warms my heart. I’m not as fanatical as this, but for a perfect medium-boiled egg, I fill a small saucepan up with cold tap water, put the egg in, place it on the stove uncovered, bring it just to a boil, then turn it off, cover it with the lid, and let it sit for exactly four and a half minutes. It works for me. I also salt and pepper every single bite of my egg because I have no children yet and currently have time for ridiculous stuff like that.

toasteggs

Speaking of eggs (both mine and chickens, waka-waka!) I bought some duck eggs from a woman in my choir who runs a farm up island. I had never tried them before and didn’t know what to expect, but they were absolutely glorious. Such a rich, delicious yolk.

duckeggs

One last order recommendation: I bought this cookbook on a whim a few weeks ago, and truly believe it might be the best purchase ever. So far we’ve made about three or four of the recipes, but I already think it might be a no-hitter. Except that it’s full of hits. Wait, I don’t understand baseball metaphors. We eat a lot of oatmeal here, and there are two whole pages of oatmeal topping suggestions, both savory (fried egg, tamari, scallions, and fried garlic) and sweet (dried cherries, toasted hazelnuts, and shaved dark chocolate). The other day for lunch, I made a spinach and quinoa salad with pear, hazelnuts, and a lemon-tahini dressing (I added Macedonian feta, since it’s the best), and it was so spring-y and just…clean-tasting. I know that that’s an annoying description, but it honestly just made me feel good. I don’t know the author, but this book is already one of my favourites.

quinoasalad

This ended up to be much more verbose than I meant, which is a first for me. I will tell you more recipes soon! We’re off to Portland now, to eat our way through the city like Pac-Man and Ms.Pac-Man (wow, I realize now how super-sexist that is). Back soon with descriptive tales of what we ate and drank, and likely terribly pretentious Instagram pictures.

(Bonus picture of Mark and Luka wrapped in a tender embrace)

markluka