Homecooking

Pizza is one of my favourite foods. I would claim that, over the years, I have become somewhat of a pizza aficionado. I have my favourite restaurant for sauce. I have my favourite restaurant for quality – and variety – of toppings. I know the difference between New York, Chicago and authentic Roma styles and regularly indulge in a slice or two (or three ... or four) of each. But in all my years on this planet, I have never made a pizza at home. To be fair, I had no reason to. I didn't know how to cook and it was honestly just easier to wait a few minutes for delivery.

But all that has changed now.

For this weekend, we made a homemade pizza from scratch and it was life-changing. 

I combined this Bobby Flay recipe for the dough with this ultimate pizza sauce recipe, along with the freshest mozzarella I could buy, hot pepperoni, white onion and green pepper to make one of the best pizzas I've ever had! Seriously. The dough evolved into a perfectly thin crust that allowed the savoury and robust sauce and fresh-from-the-market toppings to shine through. Cost-wise, this was definitely no $5 Little Caesars take-out. I estimate that it cost $27.50 to make two pies, not including our time and labour. 

But I'm not sure I can go back. This was THAT good. 

I'm planning to make/freeze dough and sauce in advance so that I can insert this into my regular meal rotation. It's taken awhile but now that I am limiting processed foods to as few as possible, it's only natural that my favourite food gets a fresh makeover. 

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😁

I know this is starting to feel like a food blog but it's not (at least not entirely). This is just my online space to journal my life and interests and part of those interests right now is learning how to truly nourish and indulge myself through what I eat. BUT I have to make two food posts in a row because something happened this week that made me so happy and so proud at how far I have evolved in just the span of a year that I need to shout from the rooftops and tell everyone who will listen.

On Wednesday, I made the Spanish dish patatas bravas ("fierce potatoes") after reading about it in a cook book I have by Jamie Oliver titled "Food Escapes". I posted it on my Instagram and Twitter, because clearly one cannot only document their life on a blog, and later in the evening this happened: 

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JAMIE FREAKIN' OLIVER HIMSELF (or more likely his social media team) LIKED MY POST!!! OMG!!! 

It's also fascinating to note the reach of celebrity. In Twitter, posts that are "liked" are sometimes, but not always, shared with followers. Who sees it is all down to the science of algorithms. Out of curiosity I looked at the activity for that particular tweet and in the span of less than twenty-four hours, over 25,000 people had viewed my cooking. Amazing. 

I am by no means fashioning myself a pro – although my cooking is damn good – but this just makes me want to try harder and evolve my palate even more. 

Oh - and patatas bravas is absolutely divine. It's shortlisted as one of my favourites. You can get the recipe in this book. 

 Patatas bravas is a traditional tapas style dish from Spain. It is made up of fried potatoes and a thick sauce made of onion, garlic, carrots, pepper and tomatoes. I served mine with a side of chorizo (©Deborah Clague). 

Patatas bravas is a traditional tapas style dish from Spain. It is made up of fried potatoes and a thick sauce made of onion, garlic, carrots, pepper and tomatoes. I served mine with a side of chorizo (©Deborah Clague). 

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 My favourite celebrity chef, Jamie Oliver. His style is healthy, fresh and easy. 

My favourite celebrity chef, Jamie Oliver. His style is healthy, fresh and easy. 

Homecooking

Last year I started learning how to cook. This year I seek to continue building that skillset by attempting more difficult, and varied, dishes, as well as configuring the cost for eating healthy. My grocery bill has definitely increased as I focus on fresh and organic (where possible) but I'm not dining out as much so I hope to see it balance out. For example: earlier this week, I calculated that the turkey rice soup I make averages about $4.20/bowl (I get about six bowls per batch). In comparison, Tim Hortons charges $2.99/bowl for a serving of similar size with a side of bread. At face value, it appears to be a better business decision to continue dining out. But when ingredients are compared, the playing field shifts. My soup contains rice, humanely-raised turkey (breast), organic broth, heirloom garlic, white onion, carrots, celery, lemon, fresno pepper, turmeric and summer savoury seasoning. The equivalent Tim Hortons offering contains ingredients such as maltodextrin, artificial flavour, disodium insinate and caramel colouring (amongst other unpronounceable components). 

I want to know what I'm eating. I want to be able to pronounce and identify what I am putting in my stomach. 

For my first new dish of the year, I was inspired to take on something that has previously been an addiction of mine. KFC, Popeyes ... fried chicken tenders are VERY tasty but notoriously bad for one's health (and I don't dare look into their actual ingredients). I found an online recipe to replicate the former's famous eleven herbs and spices and decided to attempt them from home. Instead of frying in oil, they are baked in oven. Because of this, taste is not exactly replicated but this alternative is equally as good in its own right. I served with a side of garlic mashed potatoes and seasoned carrots. 

Total cost for this meal was about $8.00/serving, not including the two bottles of wine also consumed. 

To learn this recipe, check out RecipeTinEats.  

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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)

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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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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