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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Channa Masala

Channa Masala

Back in my university days (the first time around), when I was just learning how to cook, I tried making channa masala a few times.  Channa masala is an Indian dish (sort of a chickpea curry) and is very hearty and delicious when done properly.  I couldn't get it right.  My version always just tasted like canned tomatoes.  I was lamenting this fact at work several months ago (over a late-night Indian take-out order including a delicious channa masala) and my (awesome) supervisor offered to share her mother's recipe.  Needless to say, I took her up on it!


[front to back:  grated frozen ginger, garam masala + black pepper + tomato paste, cumin seeds]

Chopped onions

[chopped onion]

Tomato paste

[tomato paste]

Chick peas


Tamarind paste

[tamarind paste]

Regarding the tamarind paste:  the last time we went hunting for some, we could only find a package of whole tamarind (not fresh pods - this stuff was almost the texture of dried figs).  In order to make a paste, I pureed the whole tamarind (about 6 oz) with a healthy splash of apple cider vinegar (maybe 1/4 cup) and a few tablespoons of sugar.  It came out with a lovely texture and nice tangy flavour.

Anyway, on to the recipe:


2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp garam masala
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1 tbsp lemon juice or tamarind paste
1 tsp tomato paste
1-2 medium onions, chopped
19 oz can of chickpeas
3 tbsp reserved chickpea liquid
1/2 cup warm water
~2 inches fresh/frozen ginger, grated or finely chopped
salt to taste


Heat oil in a heavy bottomed skillet over high heat.  Add cumin seeds and heat until darkened.  Add onions.  Reduce heat to medium.  Fry until softened (5-6 minutes).  Turn heat to low.  Add ginger, garam masala, and pepper.  Stir well.  Add tomato paste.  Stir again.  Add drained and rinsed chickpeas (remember to reserve 3 tbsp of liquid!).  Add chickpea liquid and 1/2 cup warm water.  Let heat for ~10 minutes, stirring gently (trying not to break up the chickpeas).  Add tamarind paste or lemon juice to the dish and stir.  Serve hot over basmati rice, or with naan bread.  Makes ~ 4 portions.

Note: the heat in this dish comes from the ginger (and to a lesser extent the black pepper).  So you can modify those amounts to get your desired spiciness.  As is, I would consider it a fairly mild dish.

Channa Masala

[ready to eat]

Channa Masala

[close up]

I'm telling you, it is one satisfying dish.  And healthy.  And vegetarian.  And vegan for that matter.

Got a favorite Indian food recipe?  Please share!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Turkey noodle soup

Good for what ails you!  And tastier than chicken soup.

Turkey noodle soup

Turkey may not be the most traditional January food, but it is at our house:  my husband gets a free turkey at Christmas from his boss.  Of course, we are on PEI at Christmas time, so the work-turkey chills out in the freezer until we get back.  As the food memories of Christmas fade away, we decide we are in the mood for turkey once again, and we end up with this:

Christmas in January

Now, our St. John's family only consists of the two of us.  The turkey was an 18 pounder.  Despite having four guests over for  dinner, there was a fair bit of fowl left.  So, what to do with all the leftover goodness of the turkey?  My husband was convinced none of it would go to waste.  He decided to make a stock from the bones.

The next logical thing to do with the turkey stock was soup (getting more to the point of this post!).  We didn't record exact measurements, but between Mike and I, here is the recipe:

Turkey noodle soup

Turkey noodle soup

3.5 litres homemade turkey stock (fat skimmed off)
3 cups roast turkey, chopped
1 turnip/rutabaga, cubed (1.5 cm)
4 large carrots, cubed (1.5 cm)
4-5 ribs of celery, halved lengthwise, then diced
2 medium onions, diced
1 pkg No-Yolks fine egg noodles (makes a very noodly soup)
Fresh sage and thyme, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Salt, to taste

Instructions:  Begin heating stock in a large soup pot over medium-high heat.  In a frying pan, soften onions in a small amount of canola oil or butter (about 5 minutes).  Add to stock along with fresh pepper and salt to taste.  Bring stock to a simmer.  Once simmering, add root vegetables (turnip, carrot).  Cover, and continue to simmer until root vegetables begin to soften, about 15 minutes.  Add celery, cover, and simmer another 5 minutes.  Add turkey, thyme, sage, and further salt and pepper to taste.  Increase heat slightly to bring to a very gentle boil, add noodles and cook until softened, about 10 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Enjoy with your favorite bread or biscuits.  Makes ~ 10 portions.


This is definitely a soup that eats like a meal!  We had the leftovers all week and the last bowl was as good as the first.  Mike had the idea to store the soup in Mason jars (500 mL) which made for good meal-sized portions.  We noticed that when cold, the noodles seemed to absorb most of the liquid in the soup, but when re-heated, the soup became soupy again.  I should mention, we love noodles.  If you are not a huge fan, maybe just add 1/2 pkg.  Or substitute with potatoes (cook along with the other root vegetables) or rice (I'm not a rice-in-soup girl - I'm sure there are lots of tips on the web).

Turkey soup

More soup posts here and here and here and here.  Also check out my new Food Index for better recipe browsing on the blog.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The turntable

Our home has lately been filled with the warm snap crackle pop of records on the turntable.  What a great Christmas gift.  I've always wanted a record player.  Well, one that was new enough that it wasn't a fire hazard (I owned a little portable player briefly in the late 1990s but its 1960s wiring just scared me).


I raided my parents' album stash years ago.  When the new turntable arrived, we also raided my in-laws' collection.  Add some more vinyl from Fred's, and here is the best-of-the-best of our collection:

Album mosaic

[mosaic maker via Big Huge Labs, for those interested]

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Wedding Retrospective: The guest book(lets)

Well, it's been ages since the wedding... but I realized there were still a few projects I hadn't yet blogged.  Also, we are right in the thick of wedding-planning season for any Spring brides out there!  It was two full years ago that I was pulling this project together.


[finished booklets]

Initially, these booklets were going to be labeled as table numbers.  I had seen a great tutorial for making the booklets on the DIY Wedding section of the amazing Once Wed, and instantly loved the idea.  As time went by and the decor/venue plans evolved, I decided the booklets might be too small to serve as a table marker.  Instead, I decided a booklet at every guest table would take the place of a single guest book at the front of the hall.

Why a whole bunch of little booklets instead of one normal guest book?  I liked the idea of people being able to take the time to write a thought or a story or a bit of advice for us instead of just writing a short greeting and signing their names.  Mike and I have a lot of creative/hilarious/thoughtful friends and family members in our lives and I wanted to capture more from them than simply "Congratulations and Best Wishes".


[moleskine booklets]

My favorite - totally favorite - part of the project was choosing the paper.  (I have a thing for paper).  Our colours (as you may know from previous posts on the wedding) were pink and brown and cream.  Most of the paper was found at DeSerres in Halifax with a few special (i.e. velvet-texture pink damask) sheets from Michaels in St. John's.




I found a paper cutter came in handy for this craft (and for several crafts thereafter).  I simply cut strips of  the paper to cover the Moleskines with about an inch of extra paper left to affix (using double-sided acid-free tape) onto the inside front and back covers of the books.



Another cute feature of the booklets was the ribbon page-marker.  I found a thin, satin finish ribbon, cut the end on the bias and a few inches longer than the spine of the booklet, then taped one end of the ribbon to the outside spine of the booklet before covering it with paper.


[page-marker and inside cover]


[page markers in finished booklets]

Now, Mike and I have a little shoebox containing the booklets.  They are filled with notes, funny stories, hilarious kids drawings, a limerick, a list of potential baby names, tear-jerking memories, hilarious grown-up drawings, and some really lovely poems.  In retrospect, this might have been the best DIY project of the whole wedding!  Re-reading them over the past few days has reminded me how amazing our wedding guests were and how lucky we were to have so many friends and family members join us!

And now, loyal readers, I will give you a peek into our guest book(lets):

Guest book

Guest book

Guest book

Guest book

Guest book

This last drawing by Mike's little cousin was accompanied by the charming caption, "You are now royalty".  So sweet!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Kitchen favorites

After watching some teaser clips of this new web series out of PEI, I was really inspired to share some of my favorite kitchen tools and accessories.  This list is by no means exhaustive, as I highly value most items in my kitchen.

Kitchen cart

Our kitchen cart.  In a tiny kitchen with next to no counter space, we really needed a functional work space.  We cook.  A lot.  You may have noticed.  We found this little cart at Walmart of all places.  It's great.  Towel rack, spice rack, dishcloth-hanging-bar, four drawers, three shelves, granite and wood surface.

Anthro apron

My apron!  I've posted on this before, but it is one of my favorite (and beautiful) things in the kitchen.  Very useful, especially if you want to get supper going and you're still in work clothes.  Aprons are making a big comeback, you know.


The trivet.  This was made by my scientist boss back in my lab days.  He's quite handy, as you can see.  It's been through the wars though - a few scorch marks on the corks, some deeply embedded crumbs, and a few splatters of my husband's most recent blueberry adventure.


Upside-down glass rack.  This rack is one of two that came along with the house we are renting.  I need one of these in my next place.  Not only does it free up cupboard space, it lets you display your glasses and you don't have to wash the dust out before use.  Here is the story behind a few of these glasses.


Next - my microplane grater.  Have you ever tried to zest a lemon or lime with that really abrasive side of a box grater?  You know, the side that's impossible to clean?  After doing that about a dozen times, I realized I needed a microplane grater.  It has many uses - citrus zest, ginger, chocolate...


Oooh, this is exciting - a twofer!  First, let me begin with the knives.  These Grohmann knives are the first "real" set of knives we've owned (and maybe the last!).  They are handmade in Pictou County, Nova Scotia.  We received one as a generous wedding gift and used some cash gifts to finish the set.  I love them.  The bread knife is so sharp, Mike and I fight over who gets to slice the latest loaf.  Unfortunately, several dishcloths have been butchered as we've gotten used to having real knives around.

Secondly, take a look at that knife block.  Another genius item from Lee Valley.  This is one of those word-of-mouth items that we heard about from friends... now several other family members and friends own one!  There are no pre-sized slots in this knife block - each knife just fits in amongst the polypropylene rods.  You can have a unique knife collection and grow it and not have to swap out your knife block each time.

Garlic skinner

Now this little item initially seemed frivolous, but I have come to treasure it!  When you are prepping garlic, do you ever get frustrated trying to peel that last layer of skin off the clove?  I did.  I also ended up getting garlic bits under my fingernails.  Not anymore!  Pop a clove in this silicone roller and off comes the skin, NBD.

Well my friends, that's going to be all for today.  I still have lots of favorite kitchen things, though, so there may be a follow up post.

Now, please do me a favor and share with me YOUR favorite kitchen items in the comment section!  Links welcome!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Corn chowder

After a few weeks of utter over-indulgence, I thought I should simplify my meals a bit.  Soup seemed reasonable.  But then I realized I didn't really want to go (pardon the pun) cold turkey from my delicious rich holiday meals.  Chowder was a good compromise.  It still offers a hint of richness with cream and bacon, but they are diluted with enough broth and vegetables that you don't go into a guilt coma immediately after ingesting it.

Chowder ingredients

[Ingredients, clockwise from right:  shredded pepper Jack cheese; diced onions, celery and red bell pepper; Tabasco; S&P; corn pureed into heavy cream; diced potatoes; bacon; corn.  Missing: green chiles (they were still in the can at this point), chicken broth, tomatoes]

The more I cook, the more I learn to value preparation.  It is so much easier if you have all the ingredients ready to go.  Otherwise, I find I end up over-cooking certain parts of the meal - I'm trying to chop up and seed those three tomatoes required while my meat cooks - not browns - cooks in the pan.  So recently I've been a stickler for preparing (peeling, chopping, dicing, mincing, pureeing, etc) before I even turn on a burner.

Corn chowder


This is another recipe from my soup cookbook, The New Book of Soups.  Since I copied the recipe exactly, for copyright reasons I won't post it here.  You can see the ingredients above, and you know there are tons of corn chowder recipes online.  I highly recommend the book, however!  Beautiful photographs and lots of general tips on how to approach different types of soups.

See more of my soup posts here and here and here.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Gretta's blanket

When we found out our close friends were expecting a baby, I knew an epic knitting project would be required.  Attempting my first baby blanket seemed appropriate.  This was a project many months in the making. Thanks to the healthy arrival of beautiful little Gretta (I met her yesterday and I'm totally in love), it is finally time to unveil on runty mouse!

Gretta's blanket

I spent a lot of time on Ravelry, searching for the perfect pattern.  We didn't know if the bun-in-the-oven would be a boy or a girl, so I was looking for something gender-neutral - but nonetheless awesome - for this little kid.  I thought about the Log Cabin Blanket as well as the Moderne Baby Blanket - longtime faves from Mason Dixon Knitting.  But it was a pattern I had never seen before that really caught my eye:  Pickets by Jennifer Crawford (find it on Ravelry or KnitPicks).

A full rainbow!  All the way across the baby!

Gretta's blanket

It was a pleasure to knit.  I LOVE garter stitch.  So soothing.  So uniform.  I chose a very practical acrylic yarn that would be fully machine washable, making the blanket actually useful to our friends.  The colours available were perfect.  *A full rainbow*.  My personal favorites are the bright blue, the yellow, and the purple.  Here are some photos of the blanket in-progress:

Gretta's blanket

Gretta's blanket

Gretta's blanket

Gretta's blanket

Even after finally finishing the blanket, I still felt crafty.  So I made this little card as well:


Card and envelope


Finally, some modification notes and tips for interested knitters:

  • You'll notice I dropped one of the "points" of each "picket" so that only one end of the blanket had "points".  I knew that my "increasing end" would not be symmetrical with my "decreasing end", so I just cast off the full width of the "picket".  I think it looks more like a picket fence this way, or maybe a set of crayons?  
  • Regarding gauge, I knit 24 stitches across at the maximum width, and knit about 149 rows per panel (after the "point" was completed).  
  • All through the project, I was dreading the final seaming of all ten pickets.  However, I was directed to a knitty tutorial by a fellow Raveler which turned out to be so easy and effective, I actually looked forward to seaming!  In retrospect, I would have left a "tail" at the end of each picket that would equal the entire length of the picket (plus about six inches) - it could then be used as the seaming yarn.
  • Link to my project page on Ravelry