Something Different

D and I both come from suburban backgrounds. Quaint places.

The kind of places where people leave their doors unlocked. Where modest homes with lovingly manicured lawns line the streets. Where the two and three kid families reign supreme. Where hot dogs, birthday cake, chicken pox, bicycles, inflatable pools filled with icy cold water in the summertime, swing sets in the backyard, friendly neighbours, and sidewalk chalk are absolute certainties in your life.

Our meals were square. At least, that’s what the parents always said. “Mmm, now that’s a good square meal,” they’d say as they plopped an overflowing plate in front of you. It was always heaping. A heaping plate of pot roast with mashed potatoes, and carrots/peas/green beans/corn/broccoli/brussel sprouts/cauliflower. That was how it worked. You got a meat, some sort of potato side, and a vegetable side. Usually some bread ‘n’ butter too. Gotta make sure you’ve got the four food groups all present and accounted for. Then maybe you’d have dessert. Something mom had baked that day, possibly.

It’s the classic suburban formula for a good square meal.

Our parents didn’t deviate from it often. If they did, a pizza was delivered. Or if you wanted something really different, you’d order Chinese food. Sushi was something that wealthy weirdoes in movies ate. Nobody had ever heard of tapas before. There was no differentiation between Thai, Vietnamese, Korean, or Japanese. That stuff fell under the all-encompasing “Chinese” umbrella. Mexican consisted of Old El Paso taco kits. And Indian? What are you even talking about?

2% milk, red meat, white bread, and potatoes. Those were the staples in every suburban grocery cart. Terms like “organic”, “gluten free”, “locally sourced”, and “free range” weren’t part of the vocabulary back then. We weren’t so aware of our food or conscious of our consumption. We just ate. And we ate what we knew.

In my school days eating was hedonistic. The four food groups had been reduced to a mere two: pizza and beer. We were 18, we didn’t care. We thought we were invincible. Immune to the pitfalls of a predominately carb based diet. The summer sojourn at home eating my ma’s square meals was like a stint in rehab. Shocking myself back to health with proteins and vegetables.

When it came time to grow up, move out, and start cooking for ourselves we were awakened unto a world of possibilities beyond pot roast and mashed potatoes. It was daunting at first. The landscape had changed. Suddenly, there was a lot more choice at the grocery store. We didn’t have to stick to the square meal blueprint of our childhood. And we wouldn’t program the number for the local pizza joint into the speed dial. We were gonna have to learn to feed ourselves. Honest to goodness adult meals.

D does most of the cooking. He’s good at it, and he likes it. I like dreaming up cool things for us to eat. But when it comes to the kitchen I’d much rather draft the plans and watch someone else bring my ideas to fruition. And then of course, savour the success.

Some of our recent successes include:

Butter Chicken

Indian is the shit. Straight up, I dare you to eat some butter chicken and not fall madly in love. A creamy, dreamy tomato based sauce and some spicy basmati rice. We’ll usually make some samosas to go with as well. It’s a killer combination, and it’s easy to make. Or so D says. Sweet + Heat = Greatness. Indian food is very fragrant though. Not only in taste, but in ambience. Your apartment will have a distinctly Indian smell for the remainder of the night. Of spices and curry galore!

Butter Chicken and Basmati Rice

Butter Chicken and Basmati Rice

Pierogi & Calabrese Salami

Credit for this meal goes directly to my girl Joce-Force. We feasted like kings on these one night at her place, and I’ve been hooked ever since. You see, most people serve them with bacon. But Joce had a stroke of pure brilliance when she paired them with the Calabrese salami. The pierogies have a nice crisp outside and a tender potato center. That Calabrese gets so crispy. Just a few minutes in the frying pan and it is perfection. It’s got some kick to it though. Again, it’s that magical combination of subtlety and heat. And if you really want get nuts with flavour all up in your tastebuds, dip a bite of it in tzatziki. I insist, you simply haven’t lived until you’ve tried it!

Pierogi!

Pierogi!

Asian Five Spice Stir Fry

This is something we’ve had to experiment with a lot. I’m very picky when it comes to rice. Unless it has that exact right flavour I’m looking for, then I don’t feel compelled to eat a lot of it. But, after many trials and tribulations, I think D has nailed it. I don’t know what goes into it, but I sure as hell dig it. The only thing I know for certain is that D started putting Worcestershire sauce into the rice. And it seems to have been the crucial ingredient when it comes to pleasing my palate. We’ll also cheat a bit and make some frozen spring rolls, for the crunch. But I decree frozen spring rolls perfectly acceptable in my kitchen. Also, please note that my portion is entirely devoid of broccoli. That’s very important. No Broccoli, you shall not pass!

Stir Fridays

Stir Fridays

I have one specialty in our kitchen. One thing that I can make that will knock D’s socks off. But we don’t eat it very often. That’s because it is a major indulgence. When you just want to carb the fuck out, come see me. I’ll make sure you’re taken care of.

Smash’s Gut-Busting Calzones & Cheesy Breadsticks

You can’t even get through the title of that dish without clutching your stomach can you? Well, just wait ’til you see the pictures!

Calzone, Smash's way

Calzone, Smash’s way

Carb overloading

Carb overloading

And, I’ll even share my secrets with you lucky readers. One time only!

I get some dough, and let it rise. Then I roll it out to an acceptable thickness for pizza. I generously sauce one side of the dough, and then load it up. With pepperonis and cheeeeeeese! And usually some mushrooms and green peppers for D. We use turkey pepperonis, and they are delicious. They’re nice and thin, so they warm through quickly in the oven. Once it’s been stuffed, you fold over the other side of the dough and pinch it shut with your fingertips. Pinch, pinch, pinch! You’ve gotta pinch it firmly shut so it doesn’t bust and gush all over the tray when it’s baking.

Right before they go in the oven, I brush them with garlic butter. The butter is heated to a fluid consistency. It absorbs nicely into the dough and spreads easier that way. Set the oven to 400 and bake for as longs you like. If you like them crispy, keep them in for a solid 20-25 minutes. If you like them a little more soft like we do, 10-15 minutes should suffice.

And while the calzones are baking, I take the leftover dough and twist it into breadsticks. I twist out the dough, then douse the pieces lovingly in the leftover garlic butter. Shredded cheese is then sprinkled on top. These bad boys only take about 5 minutes or so. And they are worth it.

Better than crazy bread

Better than crazy bread

Cheesy heaven

Cheesy heaven

And the trick is, to save some of the sauce you used inside the calzones. Dipping these breadsticks in the savoury tomato sauce is a rare delight.

I’ve successfully weened myself off of pizza pops, but when I’m feeling just a touch nostalgic I’ll make my grown-up version of them instead. My supernova-sized, overstuffed calzones. That hits the fucking spot, man.

We’ve come a long way from our little sheltered homes in the suburbs. Grown up some. From square meals and ramen noodles in the dorm to delectable dinners crafted by our very own hands. There’s no Pot Roast Tuesdays at our place. Our meal planning hinges on my many whims and our passion for experimentation. Not to disparage our backgrounds, or our respective parents’ cooking. I do still love me some meat and potatoes with a tall glass of 2% milk. But more often than not, I’m seduced by variety. Enchanted by change. That’s always the way isn’t it? After much monotony people like to get them some strange. Do something different.

And trust me, strange has never tasted so good.

My Roots

A lot of the posts I’ve published this summer have been centred around my life in the city. And while I have truly enjoyed living in and exploring the beautiful city of Toronto, in my heart of hearts I will always be a bawdy, unrefined, and indelicate hoser.

I’m like Bob and Doug’s little sister…

I love chugging back a cold beer and unleashing a rafter rattling burp. I love cooking over an open flame, spending all day in the lake, hiking through the woods, and wearing layers of clothing to go to bed because it’s just that effing cold out. I like going a whole weekend without wasting time trying to groom myself presentable. I like to roll up my sleeves and pitch in, working to build the best possible weekend for everyone out of a finite amount of supplies. The concept of roughing it? That’s just plain romantic to me.

I am completely content to spend the fucking weekend swearing, spitting, and tossing ’em back with the best of them! I’m a good solid Canadian girl, and I relish the opportunity to let that side of myself off the leash. I had the opportunity to do just that this past weekend, and fuck me if I didn’t do a damn fine job of it!

So, get this: Joce-force has a fucking island. An island, people! With not one, but two incredible cottages on it. So when she put forth an invite, my heart soared. Yes! A weekend away on a pimp private island living the cottage life? You don’t have to ask me twice.

On Friday night after work, Joss and Harry picked us up and we hit the open road. We made one brief stop in Barrie to pick up some groceries, which were dirt cheap by the way. We got enough food to feed nine people for two days for under $90.00. No joke. That stuff would have easily cost $250.00 in the city. Cheap groceries for the win!

Once we arrived in Bala, it was time to load up the good ol’ Pontoon Boat with the supplies and make our way to the island.

Sailin’ away on a glorious pontoon

It was late, and pitch black, so I really couldn’t grasp how magnificent the island really was. It wasn’t until the next morning that I was able to take in all the splendour. So, we drank ourselves into oblivion and slept like hibernating grizzlies.

The following morning, I woke up early. And when I looked out the window I was stunned. The island was insanely gorgeous! It was a rainy day, but even so, I could feel Mother Nature’s siren song reverberating throughout my entire being. I breathed deep, and savoured her sweetness. Also, it’s relevant for me to mention at this time that I was still drunk upon waking.

welcome to the island

We spent the day drinking, playing games, laughing, and lapping up the warmth of the fire. Then at night, we brought the motherfucking house down with the dance party of the ages! There were high-kicks, moonwalks, booty drops, shimmies, shakes, twists, flips, and all manner of dips. And when the heat reached an absolute boiling point, some brave souls even jumped in the lake to cool off! It was utter insanity, and well-deserved indeed.

the beginning of an incredible dance party

it’s getting’ hot in herrrre

I hear there’s also a truly horrifying video of us dancing and rapping Outkast’s “Hey Ya”. I don’t think I will ever be able to bring myself to watch it. Once you’ve seen yourself drunkenly slur-rapping and busting out moves that your intoxicated subconscious has deemed top-notch, it can’t be unseen…

I was up again early on Sunday morning, but this time I was greeted by perfect weather. I took my camera and snapped some truly incredible pictures of the island at its best.

sun shining down on the cottage

the tickle bench!

viewing one side of the island from another

good day, sunshine!

the big cottage

woodland friend

This weekend could not have come at a better time. I needed the distance and time from the city to reconnect with my old friend nature. To have self-revelations. To drink myself stupid. To laugh with my friends. And to be my beer-swilling hoser self again.  We may not see each other as often as we used to Mother Nature, but I still totally dig you, girl.

Samurai Smash, at one with nature… and beers ‘n’ shit

We came home to a very grateful Harvey. And when, in a state of total exhaustion I clapped eyes on my very own bed, I had found nirvana.

Ahhhh, my own bed!

To Joss: you are the fucking best! Thank you for sharing the island with me, and for letting me do awesome high-kicks in your cottage. It was desperately needed, and deeply appreciated.

Hiiiii-yaaaaaa!