Home Cooking: Za'atar Lemon Roasted Chicken and Saffron-Infused Pomegranate Rice

This weekend I tried something different. After reading "Jamie Oliver's Food Escapes" by my current favourite celebrity chef, I've become intrigued with the cuisine of Morocco, especially a hard-to-find spice called za'atar which a number of recipes from the region incorporate. Za'atar is a very fragrant, tangy blend of sesame seeds, thyme and sumac. After finally finding it in a local specialty store, I pulled together this recipe of za'atar lemon roasted chicken with a side of saffron-infused pomegranate rice. This was a partial success; I don't feel I've developed the palate for this particular spice (and there were too many other ingredients in the rice for the saffron to truly shine through), however, my partner felt it was very reminiscent of the food he ate while living in Africa years ago. He also ate all the leftovers. Yay! 

"Food Escapes" also talked about the communal ovens of Morocco which I found very interesting. Citizens fill clay pots called tangias with a variety of ingredients and drop them off to be slow-cooked over fire all day. The concept is a sharp contrast to the west's expectation of fast-food but I feel this would be so much more delicious (and obviously healthy). I would love to travel to North Africa to experience it. 

Za'atar lemon roasted chicken with saffron-infused pomegranate rice (©Deborah Clague)

Za'atar lemon roasted chicken with saffron-infused pomegranate rice (©Deborah Clague)

Za'atar lemon roasted chicken being readied for the oven (©Deborah Clague)

Za'atar lemon roasted chicken being readied for the oven (©Deborah Clague)

This marks the first time I've cooked with saffron (©Deborah Clague)

This marks the first time I've cooked with saffron (©Deborah Clague)

Prepping ingredients (©Deborah Clague)

Prepping ingredients (©Deborah Clague)

An Uncomfortable Reality

This video has haunted me for days (as it should). It mirrors a different documentary I watched a few weeks ago depicting the same thing. It breaks my heart to think that these majestic creatures – symbols of my homeland, the great north – may be gone this century as a result of the influence of my species. Global warming is not "fake news", it is fact. Anyone denying this is steeped in ignorance. 

I applaud organizations like National Geographic and Sea Legacy that show the uncomfortable realities of the world we live in. It may seem like we are powerless against these vast global changes but we still do hold agency to make small, positive, educated choices in terms of protecting our planet and all its creatures. 

Everyday, think about your impact. 

I highly recommend watching the BBC Earth documentary "The Hunt". The cinematography is unparalleled and it touches on some of the same issues affecting our biospheres as above: 

Home Cooking: Holiday Baking

When I was a kid, I had an EZ Bake oven. I used to get so excited when my mother would buy me a new cake mix at Toys-R-Us knowing that I would soon make a delicious creation with nothing but a lightbulb. Science! In retrospect, it was nasty as hell. However, it did instill in me much admiration for those who could cook. It was something I always wanted to learn but in between building a career and a life, never really had the time or motivation to pursue. 

This weekend I completed my holiday baking and it's safe to say that I have advanced far beyond the elementary tools of my childhood. In fact, most of the skill I've developed has been honed just over the past year or so at the influence of someone in my life who wanted to see me be healthy ... and thus happy. It's worked on both fronts. I have been thinking a lot about how this is the first Christmas since my father passed away where I actually feel "in the spirit", having rid my life of most of the toxicity that encourages and instigates depression. I'm sure there are many reasons for that, but food plays a role in it as well. 

As proof, I have completed my holiday baking! This year I am handing out home-baked goods as part of my gift to loved ones. I'm not sure if they will all realize the depth of gratitude proffered with this gesture; in addition to incorporating the highest-quality ingredients I can buy (organic, locally sourced, pure), this is an extension of my being, of my growth, of my love in tangible – and very delicious – form. 

 

GOOD MORNING SUNSHINE MUFFINS: 
This was the final piece I baked this weekend. It is a traditional carrot muffin (my favourite) mixed with pineapple, coconut and macadamia nut. I felt it would be a nice pick-me-up to our long, cold, Canadian winter. The recipe is a slightly modified version from the blog KitchenTreaty.com

Good Morning Sunshine muffins with carrot, pineapple, coconut, macadamia nut and raisins (©Deborah Clague)

Good Morning Sunshine muffins with carrot, pineapple, coconut, macadamia nut and raisins (©Deborah Clague)

Good Morning Sunshine muffins with carrot, pineapple, coconut, macadamia nut and raisins (©Deborah Clague)

Good Morning Sunshine muffins with carrot, pineapple, coconut, macadamia nut and raisins (©Deborah Clague)

Good Morning Sunshine muffins with carrot, pineapple, coconut, macadamia nut and raisins (©Deborah Clague)

Good Morning Sunshine muffins with carrot, pineapple, coconut, macadamia nut and raisins (©Deborah Clague)

Good Morning Sunshine muffins with carrot, pineapple, coconut, macadamia nut and raisins (©Deborah Clague)

Good Morning Sunshine muffins with carrot, pineapple, coconut, macadamia nut and raisins (©Deborah Clague)

Good Morning Sunshine muffins with carrot, pineapple, coconut, macadamia nut and raisins (©Deborah Clague)

Good Morning Sunshine muffins with carrot, pineapple, coconut, macadamia nut and raisins (©Deborah Clague)


PEANUT BUTTER AND RASPBERRY JAM CHEESECAKE BROWNIES: 
This was one of my favourite things that I leaned how to bake and it is absolutely DIVINE served heated with vanilla bean ice cream. Recipe was taken from the book 'Flapper Pie and a Blue Prairie Sky' by blogger TheKitchenMagpie.  

Peanut Butter and Raspberry Jam Cheesecake Brownies (©Deborah Clague)

Peanut Butter and Raspberry Jam Cheesecake Brownies (©Deborah Clague)

Peanut Butter and Raspberry Jam Cheesecake Brownies (©Deborah Clague)

Peanut Butter and Raspberry Jam Cheesecake Brownies (©Deborah Clague)

Peanut Butter and Raspberry Jam Cheesecake Brownies (©Deborah Clague)

Peanut Butter and Raspberry Jam Cheesecake Brownies (©Deborah Clague)


BROWN BUTTER BUTTERSCOTCH OATMEAL COOKIES: 
My favourite food blog is TwoPeasandtheirPod which is where I get most of my cookie recipes. 

Brown Butter Butterscotch Oatmeal Cookies (©Deborah Clague)

Brown Butter Butterscotch Oatmeal Cookies (©Deborah Clague)


TRIPLE CHOCOLATE RASPBERRY COOKIES: 
Another one from TwoPeasandtheirPod that I modified slightly. 

Triple Chocolate Raspberry Cookies (©Deborah Clague)

Triple Chocolate Raspberry Cookies (©Deborah Clague)


RICE KRISPIE SQUARES: 
This is a must for the season but I was also motivated to insta this when Kellogg's made a pledge to donate $20 to the Salvation Army with their #TreatsforToys social media giving campaign. 

Childhood favourite, the classic Rice Krispie Square (©Deborah Clague)

Childhood favourite, the classic Rice Krispie Square (©Deborah Clague)


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Below Average

I knew my week wasn't destined for greatness when I received a call at work from my best friend and neighbour asking if I was sitting down. In retrospect, perhaps one shouldn't always aim for – or desire – greatness. Average is alright and can occasionally be preferred for its safety and comfort. I would have settled for average this week. It would have saved me a lot of anger and upset (not to mention time and money) after having my personal property violated and vandalized in an act of theft.

It was the first time this happened to me which, I suppose, is above average (and possibly great) considering I live in the province with the highest crime rate in Canada and I live downtown which is typically the lore of rogues, heathens and other white-collar professionals. But I'm having a hard time. My sense of safety is gone. I've devolved back into unhealthy sleep patterns, my newfound paranoia causing me to wake up at the slightest noise. Hopefully with time I can pep-talk myself back into the trusting, empathetic fool that is my core personality. Although I know that is above-average in a world that doesn't appreciate it. 

The only highlight, if I could call it that, was finding an old receipt scattered amongst the debris. One that should have been long disposed of but for some reason remained hidden in plain view. It's from a brief weekend trip taken with someone that has enriched my life in ways I wasn't always open to. Garbage? At one time, yes. There really was no reason for keeping this. I have since accumulated a treasure of sentimental things to remind me of our shared history. But in this moment, under this circumstance, it presented a reminder that memories and your true sense of self can never really be taken from you. 

In my misfortune, it was an above average – even great – sign that all things must pass. 

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Homecooking: Roasted Turkey and Rice Soup

I've never been a big soup fan. Soup is never something I seek out when I dine at a restaurant and I've never really had one that I felt like raving to friends about. But that was before I started learning how to cook ... now, soup – fresh, made from scratch soup – is one of my favourite things to make and indulge in.

Today was a snowy, cold Saskatchewan day so I made a roasted turkey and rice soup that included Canadian heirloom garlic*, white onion, carrots, celery, freshly squeezed lemon, grated ginger, bay leaf and a special summer savoury seasoning from Nova Scotia that was gifted by a colleague. It was healthy, hearty and absolutely delicious! The flavouring could not be more perfect and left my tummy feeling so good. This dish will definitely go into regular rotation for me this winter. 

The base was another easy-to-follow recipe by twopeasandapod that I modified to my tastes. 

*I am totally becoming a garlic connoisseur. The robust flavour of this particular variety is amazing. 

I squeezed one last bit of fresh lemon into the soup before serving with garlic bread. 

I squeezed one last bit of fresh lemon into the soup before serving with garlic bread. 

Preparing the ingredients. In total, this soup took two hours to make from start-to-finish. 

Preparing the ingredients. In total, this soup took two hours to make from start-to-finish. 

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