Refuse to be Passive

Archive for October, 2011|Monthly archive page

Weekends and Chicken Fricassee

In Food, Life in General on October 29, 2011 at 4:13 pm

The space heater has officially taken up residence in my bedroom. This morning was the first official frost. Winter is a’comin’ folks! That being said, while chilly, the sun was shining this morning, and it’s been a good day. Brunch with the neighbours, a movie, shopping at the thrift store for warm fuzzy pants (success!), and looking forward to an evening of baking sugar cookies with the eight-year-old girl who lives in my house. She has a halloween party at school on Monday and wants to cookies decorated like pumpkins. Actually, not a hard request, just time consuming between chilling dough and waiting for icing to dry. That being said, it should be fun.

This delightful little recipe that follows is for Chicken Fricassee. According to Easy French Food, fricassee is a word used liberally in French cooking and basically means browned in butter and finished in a wine or bouillon.  Not rocket science, but it sounds fancy. This fancy sounding dish is delicious, although not overly healthy. But it could be a lot worse!

2 chicken breast, skinned and diced

1 1/2 tbsp butter

1 1/2 cups mushrooms, sliced

1 oz brandy

1/3 cup white wine

2 tsp tarragon (feel free to use thyme if tarragon doesn’t suit your palate)

1/3 cup whipping cream (optional)

400 ml chicken veloute– see below for instructions on making veloute

salt and pepper to taste

Chicken Veloute: Veloute is basically a stock that is thickened using butter and flour. For this veloute, melt butter in small sauce pan. Stir in flour to incorporate. Cook over medium-low heat for a couple minutes to get rid of the starchy taste, but do not brown. Add chicken stock (I’d just round up to 2 cups or 500ml). Stir well until incorporated and thickened slightly. If clumpy, strain.

Chicken Fricassee

In saute pan, melt butter and sear chicken over medium heat. Remove chicken from pan and set aside.

Add mushrooms to the pan, adding additional butter as needed. Sprinkle with salt to help draw out moisture. Cook until mushrooms have reduced. Add brandy and flambe. (If you have a gas stove, simply tilt pan away from you and into the flames– careful with this one! If you have an electric or induction stove, feel free to use a match, but once again, be careful.) Flames will reduce when alcohol burns off. Add tarragon followed by white wine. Reduce until almost no liquid is remaining (au sec– nearly dry). Add your veloute and simmer until it begins to thicken. Add whipping cream. Fricassee is done when sauce is lightly thickened and big bubbles are forming on the sauce. Remove from heat.

Serve over rice with your choice of vegetables.

Serves 4.


A time of rest?

In Life in General on October 26, 2011 at 11:45 am

The yellow leaves on the tree outside are coated with droplets of rain.  The overcast sky reflects my state of being, mind, body, and soul– tired, uncertain, lamentable, surviving. Neither stormy nor sunny. While this may not make for an exuberant blog post, or a rant of anger, I hope it proves to be thoughtful. This is one of the first times I’ve stopped to think, to get out of my mental bubble and just take time to be. I’ve stepped back from what I should do, what has to be done, and what I’m procrastinating on. I’m taking a few moments to listen to my body. My shoulders tell me that my backpack is too heavy for a 4km trek to school and back. My head is telling me that there’s not much going on there. My eyes are telling me I need rest.

The concept of rest is one that I’ve been thinking on today. What is rest? How do we take time to rest? Why is quiet so intimidating? Why do I struggle to simply sit still and taking in the silence?

Today in the kitchen at school we had a brief moment of silence. The hood fans were off because we needed to increase the kitchen temperature to allow bread dough to rise. For a time, no one said anything, and even the noises of the dishpit ceased. It was glorious. I haven’t experienced quiet like that in weeks; or at least not that I’ve acknowledged and noticed.

Rest. Breathe in, breathe out. Rest is different than relaxing. I bake to relax, but to rest without sleep, to simply sit and be? That is a true rarity. I call myself a putterer– always on the go. Always wanting to be doing something, even if that something is eating while watching TV (a bad habit I’m trying to break).

I’ve also been thinking over the concept of Sabbath as a day to get away from the busyness of the week. It’s a day to step back from what consumes your time on a regular basis. Now that I’m in culinary school, it doesn’t simply mean not going in to work. I’m beginning to think it means something more. It means a day in which I step back from food. No cooking, no baking, and even–dare I say it– no eating? That’s right, no eating. A day in which I choose to fast. A day in which I choose to focus not on food, but on faith, life, friends, and family. It would be a day to realize that “man does not live by bread alone.” In a culture so focused on food, and in an industry in which food is mammon, a day to step back from food seems like an appropriate response. It would be an opportunity to re-center onesself, to keep from being “polluted by the world.” Also, it would serve as a reminder that while food is not the be-all and end-all, it is still a gift from God. It is made to be enjoyed, made to bring joy, and made to be consumed in moderation. It is a blessing. What better way to recognize a blessing than by going without for a time?

I’m still not sure how all of this is going to play out, but for now, I’m going to take some time to rest, reflect, and maybe even sleep. I’m going to take a few hours to reset myself before cooking dinner for 17 people. And while the number is slightly intimidating, during my time of rest, I choose to push it off to the back of my mind.

Stress Eating and Stepping Back

In Life in General on October 21, 2011 at 8:10 am

I re-discovered something last night. When I’m stressed, I eat. Last night I was supposed to teach a cooking class and no students showed up. I broke into the bag of chocolate chips that were supposed to be for baking. Then, after my second class, which went relatively well, with five pupils, I went home and proceeded to chow down– still working off the stress from earlier that evening. Beyond that, the past year I’ve been so focused on tracking what I eat, that I’ve forgotten to pay attention to when I am hungry. I’ll eat little amounts of food throughout the day and then lose it in the evening. I have no issue writing about this because I know that this is a problem that a large percentage of women in North America face. So that being said, I’ve decided to practice portion control and pay attention to my hunger signals. I’m going to try it for one month, still continuing to weigh in weekly at my Weight Watchers meetings. One month is the bare minimum to see if this could be a permanent solution. One week or even two cannot give accurate results. That being said, I’m a little nervous that this will lead to more weight gain than one would desire. But on the other hand, I can lose it again. If there’s one thing I’ve discovered, it’s that weight loss is easier than weight maintenance.

Beyond that, I’m also stepping back from myself a bit. I’m going to do my best to keep from going nuts by taking things slowly and thinking them through. If it’s not my place to stress about something, I won’t. And when I do stress, I’ll take the time to recognize it and then find a healthy way of dealing with that stress. Maybe I’ll take up jogging again. I’d go to the gym, but memberships in Toronto are either stupidly expensive, or the gyms are far enough away that I wouldn’t actually go if I did obtain a membership– like at the YMCA.

Today I head off to the Delicious Food Festival to volunteer for the afternoon with my culinary class. Because we don’t start until noon, I’m having issues remembering that it’s Friday and not Saturday. Tomorrow I’m hoping to volunteer at the festival as well. It should be a good opportunity to get some exposure to the industry and maybe do a bit of networking.

My room is clean for the first time in weeks and it feels good. I’ve been dreading doing it because of my lack of storage space and the crappy broom I have to use for sweeping– and lets not forget the beaucoup de papier that I seem to accumulate. Where does it all come from?! I’m sorry for the forests we chop down and abuse so. So much paper. From cups, to sheets, to books, to pamphlets and flyers, we just can’t seem to get away from it. Although the books I’m not sure I’d want to get away from. To be honest though, there are many books that are not worth the paper they’re written on and I feel sorry for the person who spent so much time writing so much junk. Ah well, it’s the way of the world. The best way to support good literature is to read it.

Anyway, I have a cup of tea waiting and book to read. I’m off to the poppadom chair!

Playing Catch-Up

In Life in General on October 16, 2011 at 3:25 pm

Canadian Thanksgiving is past, and that means that it is time to play catch-up. It happens every year around this time. Over the Thanksgiving weekend I think of the things that are most important to me and every year it comes down to the people in my life– family and friends. Then I start thinking about all the friends I’ve been blessed with over the years. Then it starts– guilt for not keeping up with the people who have been such a strong influence on my life. This is promptly followed up by a series of individualized letters and e-mails. Letters tend to be reserved for the grandparents and other influential elderly individuals who cherish the written word greatly. After writing this year’s string of e-mails, I feel blessed to have already received two responses. It’s kind of like with Christmas cards. Someone sends you one and then you feel obligated to reciprocate. It was through one of those reciprocated e-mails that I was reminded that it has been ten days since my last post. Apparently people do read this blog. That is a delight to know. My friend who made this comment was kind enough to let me off the hook, assuming midterms have been my excuse. While I did have  a practical midterm in the kitchen, the final results of which I don’t find out until early this week, I really can’t use midterms as an excuse. After all, I really only studied for them for two days. Studying for a practical midterm is rather different than studying for a written midterm. Actually, there’s more difference in the execution– less room for BS. With an essay, you can use filler. Filler in a food recipe because you don’t remember the ingredients would not allow you to fare well. Thankfully, I didn’t forget any ingredients in my recipes, I don’t think. The chef gave us a bit of immediate feedback when tasting our dishes and aside from a few minor things, I got good reviews. Hopefully my in-depth assessment will see me fare as well.

Fingers crossed and a shout out to all my friends and family whom I love, but usually fail to maintain contact with. Know that even if I don’t write or call often, you are still in my thoughts and prayers.

Regaining My Center

In Uncategorized on October 5, 2011 at 8:11 pm

Starting a new life always comes with its challenges. The first month tends to be busy as you sort out your belongings, unpack, run errands, and take care of the bits and pieces that go into setting up your new life. You go to get the library card or pick up the paint for your bedroom. You figure out how to take the public transit system and where your local coffee shop is. But once you’re there and settled in, what then? You still have to work at developing a social network, and it really is work. Finding people to share your values and morals as well as desiring to share in your life takes a couple of years at best. So what about during the third, fourth, and fifth month when you’re settled, but not really yet full ensconsed in your new surroundings?
This is a place that I currently find myself in. When not at school or at work, I often find myself rummaging through the cupboards at home, looking for a snack to distract me from my boredom. What did I do prior to moving that helped keep this boredom in check? In contemplating this, I’ve discovered that although I don’t always feel the stress of a new life, it’s definitely there. I don’t yet have the support network or the routine developed to feel comfortable with my surroundings. As such, I tend to turn to food as a friend. Once again I’m back to emotional eating.
The funny thing about emotional eating is that it seems to have a direct correlation with both my spiritual and mental space. If either, or both, of those are off, my eating will be off. Well let me tell you, my eating is off.
After chatting with my mother tonight, we discussed the importance of regaining my center– being right with God will lead toward being right mentally, which leads to being right physically. So I am going to try to get back into a rhythem of quiet meditation during my days (or evenings). From there, I’ll move on to focus on the mental, which may be worked out through the physical. I’m always saying I need a new hobby. Why not tae kwon do or some other form of martial art? How about boxing? Or maybe I can find myself a decent swimming pool nearby. That would be nice…
But for now, I’ll start taking the little steps towards developing a new routine and regaining my center. Hopefully it will all work its way out from there.

Tired, So Tired– and Chocolately Fudge Icing

In Food, Life in General on October 4, 2011 at 6:25 pm

Today I have been dragging. I actually sat in a chair and did nothing but stare into space for almost a half hour. For some people this may be considered normal. For me it is not. If I’m not up to something then I’m bored or sleeping. I think it’s part of the reason I spend so much time in the kitchen. It’s a great way to spend your time without having to put in any form of consistent day-to-day commitment. That being said, tomorrow afternoon is devoted to baking! I’m making fudgy chocolate brownies, coconut pineapple bars, and pumpkin cupcakes for a coffeehouse I’m involved in the next evening. I agreed to do the deserts and apparently they’re thinking a dozen of three different varieties will be enough. I hope we get a good turnout for the coffeehouse as it is a fundraiser. That would be fantastic! But for now, I’m just plain old tired. It’s taking all I’ve got not to sack out right now at 8:24pm. Must keep eyes open.

Oh, but I did make a great icing for the brownies tonight:


3 Tbsp cocoa powder

3 Tbsp melted butter

1 Tbsp corn syrup

1/2 cup icing sugar

1 tsp vanilla

2 Tbsp milk

Combine dry ingredients and sift. Cocoa tends to be lumpy. Once sifted, mix in butter, corn syrup and vanilla. Add milk a bit at a time, mixing until smooth and desired consistency is reached.  I did this all with a fork and came out with a light, creamy icing. It’s really quite lovely.

Brilliant? Mean? A Little of Both?

In Uncategorized on October 3, 2011 at 8:01 pm

This evening I was struck by an idea that can be called nothing other than brilliant. Actually, it could probably also be called self serving, greedy, and maybe even a little mean.

The people I live with tend to look in the fridge with their eyes, as most of us do. As a result, they’re always rummaging for something new, rather than checking containers for leftovers and things that need to be used up. Because of this, peppers I’ve intended for salads or strawberries I’d just bought for the next morning’s breakfast are gobbled up before I get a chance to have any of them. The thing about that is that often these new bits I buy are intended to help use up the leftovers in the fridge everyone else glosses over. This is a technique I learned from my mother. I never knew it could be so frustrating to have someone munch down part of what you’d planned on serving for dinner! To my mother, my apologies I did this to you. It’s rather aggravating.

So, what is to be done about people munching on the new stuff before finishing the old– particularly if it’s something rather popular such as strawberries? Here’s my solution. Are you ready for it?

Turn them into leftovers.

What? What does that mean, you might ask? Well let me tell you. This evening I took all the fruit I’d bought in the past two days– blackberries, grapes, and strawberries. I washed them, prepped them, and then put them into what I call “dutch tupperware” aka old yogurt containers. People see the containers, think “leftovers” and never even both to check and see what is in them. As a result, I maintain my fruit stash, or whatever other food stash I’m aiming at protecting until it can arrive at its intended use.

Once again I ask, brilliant? Mean? Or maybe just a little bit of both.

Writing, not blogging

In Uncategorized on October 2, 2011 at 7:05 pm

I should start writing again, and I don’t just mean blogging. In university I took a number of creative writing courses and learned to really love writing. I learned to love intentional writing, good word choice, proper grammar, and all that good writing entails. If you’ve been reading my blog for any amount of time, you’ll notice that much of that passion has gone out the window. I even use cliche phrases on a regular basis. Its actually to the point where I’m beginning to wonder if I could still write something decent. I had an excellent professor who truly believed that if it was what I wanted, I could do it successfully. He did warn me, however, that writing is not easy and that it would take dedication. He told me I should write daily, keep a routine. Always write at the same time. Whether it was good or crap, whether I was in the mood or just wanting to be somewhere else, it was important to write. Maybe I’ll take up writing again. Being a culinary student is fantastic, but when all you do both at school and at home is cook, it’s time to pick up another hobby. I’d go and take a dance class or something, but currently funds are lacking, so writing seems like a good option. But to get into the habit of writing is like getting into the habit of going to the gym or not eating after 8 pm. It’s slightly painful and takes work and intentionality. I’m not even sure that last word is a word. Ah well. Here are my random thoughts. Watch out for my book! If I take after Lewis, it will be out in less than a month. Tolkien? Well, you’ll be lucky if you ever see it. Or maybe you’d then be unlucky…