Catchup.com

Once upon a more productive time, I used to do a catch up blog every month. Ah, the days when life was simple, unencumbered by the wild throws of admiration and attention that sudden success and fame brings. Continue reading “Catchup.com”

Comfort Food, ch. 1: Bolognese for Days

Comfort eating – my favourite sport. I have a few meals in my rotation for when times get tough, or when I just need that ultimate food hug. Yes, it’s unhealthy to use food as a coping mechanism. But we aren’t here to discuss my unhealthy coping mechanisms – that’s another post all together. We’re here to talk about the food that takes you to a safe space. The meals that give you an island in a sea of bullshit.

My most craved meals are almost all from childhood, and they’re almost all amazingly unhealthy – chicken enchiladas, biscuits ‘n gravy, bbq chicken with yellow rice, brisket sandwiches, french toast, I could go on in a gravy coated, cheese topped dream.

Today, though, I’m all about bolognese. Full disclosure: I love my mom’s spaghetti sauce. It’s pretty damn good and my #1 meal of all time is her baked chilli spaghetti (coming soon!) But this sauce isn’t my mom’s recipe. I happened upon this deliciousness when I was older and living out of state on my own for the first time.

My sister’s God-brother’s wife, Mandy (yes) posted this recipe she got from her friend, and claimed it was life changing. I was an Extra Super Cooking Novice (I have since become a Kinda OK Cooking Novice) and had always thought bolognese was intimidating and too advanced for me. But Mandy made it look easy. I book marked the recipe until the one random night that I was gutsy enough to try it.

Sheeeeeew – it was incredible then, and it’s incredible now. It’s even good when I forget/swapped some ingredients (read: forgot to buy the right ones). It was the first real “adult” or “more than 3 ingredients” meal I attempted, and it was a raving success. And now, it holds a special place in my rapidly clogging arteries. Joel thinks we should have it once a week.

So, here’s the low down, complete with inevitable Audrey Mayhem (see above about forgetting/swapping ingredients) –

The ingredients:

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*aud note: I forgot to add 1/2 cup parsley. I have only ever remembered to buy it the first time I made this recipe. (Way to go, Audrey). Don’t worry, it’s not crucial.

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cube that shit up – don’t skip the pancetta. It’s next level.
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*aud note: once I was out of milk, so I used 1/2 cup of heavy cream with a spoon full of water to thin it out. It was really good
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*aud note: I’ve used $30 wine and I’ve used $5 wine to make this – and it doesn’t make a whole lot of difference to my gutter pallet.
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*aud note: this is a picture of pork/veal mince because it was on special for $5 and I was all “SOLD.” But let’s pretend it’s beef mince, because beef is fattier and doesn’t have that same “I killed a baby cow” taste. Also there’s no need for additional pork, because you have pancetta. Do as I say, not as I post.

 

Step 1: find some good trash TV to cook to. You’ve got some chopping to do.

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Judge awaaaay

Step 2: cook the onions in some olive oil for 2 minutes.

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*aud note: It’s easiest to make this in a deep sauce pan, like a dutch oven. But I’ve been making this meal for 5 years and I still don’t own a good sauce pot. I most often make it in our wok. Just make sure the pan/pot is deep, because you have a lot of ingredients to add.
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For example, you might start browning the onions in your frying pan before you forget that you won’t be able to stir it all up without spilling out the sides so you switch to the wok.

Step 3: Add the celery, carrot, and garlic and cook for 5 minutes

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Step 4: Pour yourself a glass of the $5 wine. Hold out hope that this is the one $5 bottle of wine that defies the odds and doesn’t taste like room-temperature, freshman year of college bad decisions.

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*aud note: it will taste like room temperature, freshman year of college bad decisions.

Step 5. Add the pancetta and cook for 5 minutes

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This is the best step. If only this was smell-0-vision.

Step 6: Add the beef and cook until brown

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Step 7: Add the remaining ingredients

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Joel gets really uncomfortable that there’s milk involved. To be honest, I was too the first time around. But once you go milk, you won’t go… bilk? Yeah.
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Yum, slop!
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Give it a big, big, stir, and watch the magic happen.

Step 8: THE HARDEST PART – let it simmer for at least 45 mins.

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The longest 45 mins ever. I’ve eaten it after 20 mins or so, but it’s better the longer it sits. In fact, it’s even better the next day.
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1 hour later… yessssss

Step 9: NOSH

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We’ve tried it with a variety of pasta, and anything you want is good. I like fusilli, Joel likes linguini – you can see who won this round. We’ve also served it without pasta, open face on toasted garlic bread – choice.

This recipe makes between 5-8 servings, depending on how big your servings are. It’s wonderful, complex, creamy and savoury, and I suggest you try it tonight. Because I’m off the store for more pancetta…

Best Bolognese Ever
From M Cubed

Makes 5-8 servings

Ingredients
– olive oil
– 1 large yellow onion, diced
– 3 stalks celery, diced
– 1 carrot, diced
– 4 cloves garlic, minced
– ¼ pound pancetta, chopped
– 1 ½ pounds lean ground beef
– 1 cup dry white wine
– 1 cup whole milk
– 1 6-ounce can tomato paste
– 1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained
– ¼ teaspoon red pepper
– 2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano, or 1 tablespoon dried
– ½ cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
– 2 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
– ¼ teaspoon black pepper
– ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
– ¼ cup grated Parmesan (plus more for sprinklage)


Directions
1. In a Dutch oven (sigh. Or deep sauce pan, or wok, or something stove-top oriented that’s deep), over medium heat, heat the oil.
2. Cook the onion in heated oil for 2 minutes.
3. Add the celery, carrot, and garlic and cook for 5 minutes.
4. Add the pancetta and cook for 5 minutes
5. Add the beef and cook until brown
6. Add the wine and the remaining ingredients and simmer for 45 minutes or until sauce is thick.
7. Serve with fave type of pasta and top with shredded parmesan cheese.
8. For garlic bread with an extra kick – melt butter with some garlic powder and a pinch of paprika. Dip the surface of the bread in the melted butter mix, lay on a pan and toast until the edges are brown. Delish.
*I’ve been told that this sauce freezes and re-heats very well, for all you make a head types.

 

 

 

 

The Mayonnaise Days

So, not only is it September, it’s almost half way through September. I mean, I know time flies once you get older and you’re too busy focusing on how broke you are or how many over time hours you’re working or how many hangovers you get, but this year really has completed at break-neck speed. Not once, even in the worst moments, have I felt any day just draaaag, not once have I looked at the calendar and think “but whhhhy isn’t this month over yet?” I mean, seriously.

Speaking of time flying, I’m currently sitting outside in shorts and a t-shirt. Which means we’ve made it through yet another season.

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eeeeeeeeeeeey

I love these trans-seasonal days. I like waking up and it’s cold enough to wear a jacket, and by lunch time it’s warm enough to sit outside and eat lunch – but not come back a sweaty mess, and when the sun goes down, it’s back to jacket weather. It’s spring time, and has been since September 1, and that means before I know it I’ll be waking up in the jungle heat, taking two showers a day, and checking for Huntsmen before I put my shoes on or use the toilet. #australia

And the low to zero humidity renews all sense of hope and purpose in life and makes me think anything is possible – like, I’M GOING TO START WALKING TO WORK EVERY DAY! I’M GOING TO THE BEACH EVERY WEEKEND! I’M GOING TO GROW A GARDEN! WE WILL EAT OUTSIDE ALL THE TIME! HAPPY HOUR IN THE SUN! And then the real summer weather kicks in and I’m all “yeah I’ll be in front of the fan covered in frozen wash clothes and hoping for swift death.”

But for now, it’s nice.

It’s great to feel a rush of inspiration, as it’s been a bit meh around here for the past few weeks. There have been long days/nights at work and cleaning house and making dinner and making pies and going to the pub and shopping for groceries and watching Breaking Bad at the end of the day and trying to get back on track with life.

I mean, these days aren’t bad by any stretch of the imagination. There’s just not a lot of breaking news. These days are like mayonnaise. Not exciting, but not awful. The mayonnaise days. And while there’s little things here and there I wanted to mention in a blog, nothing seemed to materialise, because the mayonnaise days also mean I have the physical endurance of a jar of mayo. But in retrospect, it’s been nice to have some days without a lot of noise – emotional or otherwise.

I’ve started seeing a new counsellor who seems to be a better fit and is more affordable. I’m not in a particularly bad way anymore, but I want to keep up the maintenance, as it were. Joel’s working hard and making plans for his business, and in the mean time is taking some amazing photos. Our biological clocks are barking – we need a dog friend, and soon. I’m planning to revamp our “study” area so it’s better organised and has more storage space. This includes a trip to Ikea, which we all know gives me all the excitement. The sunsets are amazing. And I’m thinking about making my Goals for Summer List, but I’m also thinking about not making a Goals for Summer List, because lately whenever I make a list of things to do, it ends up being a list of shit that never gets done. We’ll see.

Let’s check out some pics!

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Plannnnnns. Redecorating and re-organising gets me really excited. It’s weird.
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My new favourite comfort food – shredded lettuce topped with basmati rice and corn, refried black beans, avocado, salsa and sour cream. How did I grow up in the south and NOT know that refried black beans exist?
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Hello, Darling.
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Chocolate Cream Cheese Dream Pie with cookie pie crust and home made whipped cream. My own recipe and yep – life changing. Will post the recipe soon. 
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Doodling with the awesome Copic markers Joel gave me. Copic markers – amazeballs.
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Deep Fried Oreos – oh yes. I’ll have to share this recipe, they taste just like a county fair treat. 
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Came home at 9:30PM after a double shift to home made curry and fried roti bread – Joel is a keeper.
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I was obsessing over spice racks, so our friend Hugh gave us one of his. Hooray! No more clunky Ikea spice drawer for us. Plus Hugh is a chef so I like to think that this spice rack has quite a history. Like, this spice rack has probably seen a lot of shit. Inherited furniture is the best. Next step – new/matching spice jars.

 

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Made some brownies. Through the magic of Imperial to Metric conversions, or a faulty scale, I added to much butter and they came out super greasy and spongey. After several hours, they solidified to something resembling brownies, and they still tasted like brownies – just not as textured as I like them to be. I call them Greasies.
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But damn, if Joel didn’t make them look like a splendid and tasty treat. I call this “Fantastic Photos of Bad Food.”
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We decided to get a new, more breathable doona cover, and better cotton sheets for summer. I finally found one that fit Joel’s need of “something that feels like sheets” and my need for “colour” while at the same time satisfying Joel’s need for “nothing busy.” It took 4.5 hours of back and forth between 5 different stores on 3 different levels, muttering about “printed sheets or solid doona or printed doona and solid sheets.” Nothing exactly fit or blew my skirt up, except for this blanket. After emergency lunch (I nearly had a hangry meltdown when I couldn’t find my phone – in my back pocket), I threw my hands up and said “Fuck it” and bought this quilt cover that stole my heart, and white sheets as a compromise even though I really wanted the printed sheets that compliment the blanket, 98% sure Joel would hate it. But, the bedding Gods smiled upon me, and he was stoked for the new stuff. I agonise about my bed’s clothes as much as I do my own. Add shopping for bedding for two opinionated people who don’t have the same taste in bedding is simultaneously the most fun and the worst thing ever. Longest caption ever.
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However, bed is now super awesome. And it’s 300% harder to leave it and be a real person.
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I finally got around to re-hanging our string of Instax pics. Don’t even get me started on that eyesore phone. I’m going to take it down and hang a framed pic over the phone jack.
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Good bye, winter friend.

Cheers, everyone – to the start of a new season.

And to hopefully getting my shit together before January. And hopefully January doesn’t show up, like tomorrow.

Searious Mussels

So Joel and I have been on a kick watching Kitchen Nightmares lately. It’s like the Hoarders of food shows, and I love it. Even if I do feel just the slightest bit shamed because the food Gordon Ramsay turns his nose at I’m usually like “DAMN THAT IS COVERED IN CHEESE AND IT LOOKS GOOD.” I have the most sophisticated pallet. Clearly.

But on one of the episodes, Ramsay was trying to choke down some mussels marinara*, and I was instantly hit with a craving for mussels. I’ve never made mussels on my own before, and I think I can count on one hand how many times I’ve eaten them. But the craving was sudden, ridiculous, and insatiable. One of those “if we don’t make these tomorrow I will cry” kind of cravings – seriously, Joel came home on Sunday night after an unsuccessful mission to find fresh mussels and I did cry**.

A few years ago when Joel stayed with me in the States, we took a trip to Montauk, NY. It was November, so there were exactly 18 people in the Hamptons, and even fewer in Montauk. We stayed in a shifty motel close to the beach, and googled restaurants until we found one that was locally famous and had the most insane name ever – Shagwong Tavern. I would have eaten there based on the name alone, but the reviews boasted the best seafood on the island, so onward we went.

Being near the Hamptons, I was expecting something a little more upscale. What we arrived at was a dank, dark, tavern that had been ridden hard and put away wet. One of those old restaurants that’s been around so long and will never not smell like cigarettes and bad decisions. We were welcomed to queaky plastic seats with American Indian fabric covered booths, crappy tables, and decor that hadn’t been updated since the mid 80’s. The bar was across from the dining room, where the clientele looked like they hadn’t been updated since the mid-80’s either – a mullet or two, curls crunched up with gel, guys wearing flannels with the sleeves cut off making out with girls in high waisted tight jeans, getting drunk and rowdy and playing pool, and everyone drinking Budweiser from the bottle. Needless to say I was no longer worried about wearing a zip up hoodie to dinner.

We ordered a bottle of wine, some entrees, and the steamed mussels to start. I wasn’t sure how to eat them, but I wanted to impress Joel so I just went with it. And fuck if they weren’t amazing. We ate until we were blind and made a lot of passing judgements at people. I think there was almost a bar fight at one point. And I remember being scared to use the bathroom. It’s one of our fondest date memories.

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Yummmmmm
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all the high class restaurants have Donate Blood cards at the table. Also random baby pumpkin.

Since Monday was a public holiday (woo!), we woke up and set out on a quest for fresh mussels. And later that night, we were eating a pan full of deliciousness. Joel came up with a garlic and white wine sauce that was basically magic, we had fresh sour dough, and it was damn good. We even cleared off the table to eat like real grown ups.

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About five minutes after we sat down…

Who knew mussels were so easy to make? All in all it was about 30 minutes of prep and cook. Normally, here is where I’d post the recipe, but Joel was at the helm and I was catching up on some work, so I have no idea what happened. Except vegetable stock was included at some point. And garlic. Oh, and white wine. And it took like 14 minutes to steam the mussels.

So there you go, world’s easiest recipe. Get some mussels and some wine and go to town!

 

*Until I moved here, I always thought marinara sauce was a plain tomato sauce. Nuuuupe. Continuing the seafood adventures kick, Joel bought a bag of fresh seafood mix and made a seafood marinara on Monday, complete with this badass tomato sauce that I once again didn’t pay attention to as he was making it, because I was once again catching up on work. But it was one of the best sauces I’ve ever had. I believe stock was once again involved. And parsley. And onions. And garlic.

So there you go, another awesome recipe to try this week.

**But really, what hasn’t made me cry this week? I need a vacation.

***No shame in my pun game.

On the Subject of Meatloaf

Noooo, meatloaf. Not Meat Loaf.

The first meal I remember my mom teaching me how to cook is meatloaf. Somewhere in my storage boxes at home, I still have her recipe that she wrote out for me, on her stationary whose border had a mother rabbit in a dress, surrounded by [presumably] her baby rabbits in little clothing, saying “Motherhood is a hare raising experience.” I liked making meatloaf because it was my job to mash all the veggies and whatnot into the meat. It was gross. And awesome.

I remember eating meatloaf a lot as a kid, because my parents are mid-western and meatloaf is a mid-west staple. But I can’t remember the last time she made it. And as Joel and I were flipping through a cookbook my mom gave us, his eyes landed on a meatloaf recipe and he lit up. As I was about to find out, Joel is a meatloaf fiend. And since we had hamburger in the freezer, vegetables in the fridge, and up til then, no clue what to do for dinner, we decided on meatloaf.

Prepping it was gross and awesome like it when I was a kid–just mushing together a pile of cold hamburger and egg and cut vegetables, and topping it with tomato sauce. It looked like a pile of wet slop. But after two hours of baking, it was delicious.

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I didn’t take more photos, because I didn’t think this meal was going to be a success. But, shit. Meatloaf might become a regular thing now. I paired it with golden potatoes that I mashed with thickened cream and real butter. And it was so good.

What I didn’t realize until I put all the ingredients together is that 2 lbs of meatloaf can feed like, 20 people. Whoops. But now I understand why it’s a family staple. It’s easy to prepare, uses up your old veggies (or frozen veggies, even easier), is child friendly, doesn’t need constant tending, and will feed you for days. Like tonight, when we had fried meat loaf sandwiches.

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Meatloaf for days. Or as Joel put it, “Alright, second hand meat!”

Yeah… That quote is the only reason I wanted to post about this.

Enjoy!

Hattie’s Meatloaf
From Talk About Good
by Hattie Mae Perry

Ingredients:
2 pounds ground beef
2 eggs, well beaten
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
1/4 bell pepper, chopped
1/4 teaspoon pepper, more if desired
2 slices bacon (optional, I went without, because bacon is different here)
1 can tomato sauce
*I added carrot, celery, and corn, because vegetables are yum. I also added a healthy dose of Tony Chachere’s Cajun seasoning because yes. It goes on everything.

Mix meat, egg, onion, bell pepper, parsley, salt and pepper in a large bowl. When mixed, form into a 9 X 5 inch loaf pan.

Place the two slices of bacon over the meat loaf and cover with tomato sauce.

Bake at 350 degrees for 1 1/2 hours, or 170*C for 2 hours.
Approximately 8-10,000 servings.