Category Archives: Weekend Chef

Goodbye Calder

This is the place that I have written about food, well kind of about food, but truly more about me, buried under the “food” banner.

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Fushimi Inari Shrine, Kyoto

It definitely started out as a place to write down recipes and served as the platform to make me write more regularly. I have always loved writing, but clearly, not enough to call myself a writer, or even a blogger. But blogging is hard because the means: blogging, is supposed to have an end. Well the end is that everyone reads the posts and you become famous or something like that…and if that’s the aim then I have failed miserably. I didn’t go by the book and write catchy posts or drop the F bomb or I don’t know, didn’t do whatever it takes to become popular.

So what did I get, or am I getting out of spending hundreds of hours at this point writing in a public way about what I deem as important? Well, even though I have failed in the blogger superstar sense, I have totally succeeded as I am still writing when it is important, to me.

At the beginning, everything was important, but right now, I only write about whatever matters to me, so I can read it later and recall those feelings. Your feelings right in those moments are real and even when you look back and maybe have regrets or doubts, or are proud, the feelings in that moment go away. And, you even forget how you felt. We live every day and we change I suppose. But do we really change? I have no idea. When I meet people who I haven’t seen in years or even decades, they say to me, “you haven’t changed a bit”. This is supposed to be a compliment of sorts, like we are still ourselves or still genuine, but at the same time it is a baffling thing to hear. Wow, is this the me I was 20 years ago after all that has happened or after all I have been through? It is a weird question to grapple with, especially since my life, to me, seems to have changed a lot.

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This place (Fushimi Inari Shrine) is important to the story I will tell)

But before I say how my life has changed I want to thank this blog of mine for saving some of the things that I felt important enough to write about that I know for sure I would have forgotten. I might not have forgotten the day, but I most definitely forgot how I felt in that moment. It is why I am writing right now. I have to recall this moment because tomorrow it will just be me trying to remember how I felt, as opposed to right now, writing about the exact thoughts and feelings as I am experiencing them. And who will read those thoughts are just people like me who read a couple of blog posts a few times a week and in that moment are moved or interested, but mostly the content is lost and you only remember the things that you connected with etc etc. I am writing this to me because I have found if I write with an audience in mind I am not as honest or as free.

Dinner is over and in the past it is a dinner I would have written about. It is Easter Sunday and as I have never gone along with traditional meals for the occasion, I was thinking about making Chicken And Waffles. I don’t even know for sure what that is but my son, Calder (ah the blog is about him, Not Thee Calder!) had been talking about them for a while now. He has always loved giving me suggestions or requests of what to make for dinner and he must have read about it or seen it somewhere while watching something on the internet.

But I do have to tell you that what I did make was very good actually. We had fried  Salmon which was  marinated in a lime soy sauce mixture on a bed of Festival rice (our version of this tonight was rice and fried vegetables, which consisted of whatever I had in the fridge: onions, lacinato kale and mushrooms from a local farmer, and yes, that sounds uppity and pretentious but the kale is my go-to green and the mushrooms were a surprise, given to my kids from a farmer they visited).

Well I never owned a Waffle Iron and it is such an American gadget to me, it never occurred to me to own one. But now I wanted one because there was an urgency to please my son. I started looking at them over the past few weeks but I couldn’t justify buying a cheap crappy one but also couldn’t really afford to go all out for a really good one, especially if it was going to end up being one of those space-wasting things that never got used.

My decision was made for me when I happened upon a store-wide liquidation sale and got a fairly decent one for 80% off. It was meant to be.

It was meant to be because I was counting down the days to the 6th of April when myself and my daughter would accompany Calder to his new home for the next two years: Kyoto Japan.

Well the waffle iron got used and we made the long-awaited trip to Japan and I couldn’t finish my account because before the trip it was too difficult to get a handle on all of those cursed feelings. Mostly though, I was so overwrought by worry, I couldn’t find the perspective I was looking for. This was a good thing and I didn’t want the protective mother that I am color everything I wanted to say about my beloved son Calder and his amazing adventure. 

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Now I feel ready to write the goodbye I had in mind.

Stay tuned…

WEEKEND CHEF! Hot Wings With Festive Rice (serves 4)

 I married a man who can’t cook but always wished he had learned the basics early on. Everything is so much harder to grasp when you are older (you know, like learning Japanese or ice skating!). Well, I am determined that this doesn’t happen to my kids, at least when it comes to cooking. It would be sinful not to teach them a little of what I have learned over the years, and keeping children out of the kitchen because they make a mess is a poor excuse when you think that one day they could make a dinner like the one my 14-year-old son made for us all this weekend!

Chef Special

Chef Special

Granted he needed a nudge to get going, and he thought because he had watched me for so long he would magically be able to dice an onion into minute uniform squares. He soon realized the only way to learn is by doing it over and over again. My two children have always helped doing “jobs” in the kitchen (my son’s favorite being to chop herbs to a fine powder!), but the other night when I looked at my son as he towered above me I had this vision of him four short years from now in some college wondering how to make good basic dishes to sustain him – panic!

The inspiration

The inspiration (The Sriracha Cookbook)

The two of them certainly know a lot about food and they know how most basic dishes are made (stews, curries, noodle dishes, sauces, stocks, soups etc), but this year I want my son to be our Weekend Chef. This past Saturday his job was to grab any cookbook magazine or food idea, tell me what it was and I would give him free reign in the kitchen (with me of course hovering to impart any wisdom I might want to force upon him). He loves Asian flavors (and sriracha hot sauce) and decided on Hot Wings from a new cookbook (present for my husband which he will probably never open!) and a rice dish I make variations on quite a bit.

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Squeezing lime juice into his sauce (He told me it was “harder than it looked” – “isn’t everything!” was my reply.

He did an amazing job and from watching him I am pretty confident that in the next few months he will be slicing and dicing better than me. He was very specific about his rice and when he tasted it, he only added a little mirin to the end result because he wanted a little “sweetness to balance the fire from the Hot Wings Sauce” We didn’t fry the wings as in the recipe. I think it is a tad dangerous and the risk of crisping them up too much was a factor. He argued that cooking them in the oven would not get the same effect but then seeing the result was happy enough with the crisp skin. I also told him the quantity of sauce was way too much for the amount of wings so he halved the recipe (again arguing with me) and it turned out to be an ample amount of sauce for everyone. He’s already learning that cookbooks should be a guide-book not a Bible.

Last night (as I cooked dinner) he came by to help - see, it's working already!

Last night (as I cooked dinner) he came by to help – see, it’s working already!

He tried to be cool about the whole “making dinner” thing but when we all thanked and complimented him he got to feel the pride and satisfaction that comes with doing something for someone besides yourself. There will be star meals and bombs made over the next year of Saturdays, but I can’t wait for each and every one.

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Hassle-Free Wings:

3 lbs chicken wings – tips removed (demo picture below)

2 tbs olive oil

1 tsp salt

Method:

Preheat oven 400*

1 – Prep wings (see picture below) and place in big bowl with oil and salt. Mix everything together to coat the wings with oil.

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Take a wing, chop off the tip (discard or keep to use in a homemade stock). Cut the rest of the wing in two. you’ll get the hang of it after a couple of tries.

2 – Place a cooling rack or some sort of oven rack into a baking tray (it will keep the wings separated from the dripping fat) and add the wings in an even layer. Place in oven for between 40 to 50 minutes, or until the wings look nice and crispy.

place wings on rack

place wings on rack

Remove to a bowl and coat with half of the hot sauce (recipe follows)

Coat crispy wings with hot sauce

Coat crispy wings with hot sauce

Hot Sauce for Wings:

1 stick unsalted butter

1/3 cup sriracha sauce

1/4 cup honey

1 tsp salt

1/2 lime – juiced

Method:

Add butter to a pot set on low heat and dd the sauce

Add butter to a pot set on low heat and add the sriracha sauce

Add the honey, lime juice and salt

Add the honey, lime juice and salt

serve warm beside wings or coat wings with sauce

serve warm beside wings or coat wings with sauce

Festive rice Just For You (serves 4-6)

This recipe should be tailored to veggies you like and what you have available in your kitchen. In other words, treat everything as optional, except for the rice!

You will need:

Basmati Rice – stove top made rice: 2 cups (16oz) and follow package instructions and for Rice Cooker: 3 cups in rice cooker measuring cup and follow rice cooker instructions (my ratio is 1 cup rice to 1 cup water)

2 to 3 tbs olive oil

Pick up to three or four of the following:

1 onion – diced (can be sweet, yellow, white or purple)

2 ribs celery – diced (optional)

1 cup diced or Julienned carrots (optional)

8 oz mushrooms – thinly sliced (can be any kind of mushroom)(optional)

2 small yellow squash or zucchini or 1 of each – diced (optional)

4 cups spinach or kale – chopped (optional)

2 large cloves garlic – roughly chopped (optional)

1 to 2 tbs various chopped fresh herbs (optional)

1 to 2 tsp spice (curry powder, mix of cumin, ginger and coriander or anything else you like when it comes to spice flavors) (optional)

Method:

1 – Put rice on to cook and then set aside.

Pari Basmati Rice

Pari Basmati Rice

2 – Put a big saute pan on medium heat and add 2 tbs of oil. When it has heated up a little add the veggies that will take the longest to cook, ending with the veggies that cook quickly. So, add things like onions and garlic first for 3 minutes, next the mushrooms, and then the carrots and squash, and ending with quick cooking things like the chopped greens.  Add more oil if necessary.

Add long-cooking ingredients forst

Add long-cooking ingredients first

2 – So, add things like onions and garlic first for 3 minutes, next the mushrooms, and then the carrots and squash, and ending with quick cooking things like the chopped greens.  Add more oil if necessary. Everything should be cooked within 10 minutes. 

keep adding veggies

keep adding veggies

3 – If going to use herbs and spices, add after the base ingredients like the onions and garlic.

Add rice

Add rice

4 – Add cooked rice and stir. Keep warm until ready to serve.

My son served this to us this past Saturday night!

My son served this to us this past Saturday night!