Mercury is in retrograde: my laptop died on Easter weekend, work’s been a bit crazy, and my left rotator cuff is telling me it needs a little more love. Aside from that, it’s been a pretty good week. But I’m definitely ready to put my my feet up and have a glass of something lovely.
One of things that makes me feel most hygge is a small dinner party, eating family style with favourite people.
I have been eating at Karen Dar Woon’s 1920’s oak table since I was 16 or 17 years old. She was one of my dance moms (referred to as Ballet Mom in this post) and is a really lovely friend to me and my own mum. Karen used to be a paper sales rep, and decided to start making biscotti. (Which was very tasty!) Her Biscotti Queen business took off and going through the BCIT Venture Development program, she eventually turned it into Your Secret Chef, a successful private chef and catering company.
There’s a frosty bite in the air, which means it’s officially hearty soup and stew season. With that, the next few #12DaysofHygge posts will be all about hearty food and beverage!
We had a roasted fennel and butternut squash for dinner last night. Much needed after a day of being out and about in the cold. (I was running errands and getting new photos shot for the blog. Really excited about the results!) I’m a little obsessed with fennel. I don’t like licorice, so I’m baffled about this fixation – perhaps it’s just more subtle than say… ouzo (*shudder*) – but I digress.
I love soup. It’s quick and easy to make, nutritious, and makes for excellent leftovers for lunch or when you don’t feel like cooking. This is a soup that I started making by cobbling bits of other recipes to my liking, and then the Brit took over and made a few more tweaks. Between the two of us making it a fair amount of times this year, I think we’ve finally gotten it to a spot on place. (The Brit also made bread last night, but he is still tweaking the recipe. Another day, another post.)
ADD VARIETY – If I’m having leftover soup, I like to stir a big handful of chopped kale or spinach into the bowl after I warm the soup up. It adds some variety and gives me an extra shot of greens for the day!
Normally I would haven take some fancy photos of the ingredients (like the fennel that I would smell all day, every day) or the soup, but honestly? I was exhausted and thoroughly enjoyed having my feet up while my guy cooked this fabulous soup. I got one in though, so I will take that as a win.
I can hear the rain outside and I have a cup of tea. As I type this, I’m bundled up in my sweats and a blanket. It’s officially soup and stew season. My favourite. But 99% of my kitchenware – so, everything – is packed up. Naturally.
A couple weeks ago, I wrote about beginning a year of immersing myself in the Danish concept of hygge. You may wonder why I decided to start this at the same time a moving house. I do, too. Ha. But really, it’s been a good way to balance out the chaos. Particularly since I made a point of keeping one corner completely box free, which has also helped. Behold my temporary and slightly disheveled hyggekrog (cozy space):
Between my cozy corner, yoga, and The Brit making me laugh, it’s been good. (I’m looking forward to having a proper hyggekrog in the new place. The Brit has been made aware that décor shopping is happening in the very near future.)
Except for the lack of home-made soup. When I have access to my pretty pots and pans again, I will be making two of my favourite recipes: Creamy Tomato Basil Bisque and Spelt Flour Soda Biscuits for sopping it all up – recipes below! I cannot find the photos for a particular instance of this meal combo in 2014, but it’s a good memory of a nice meal with friends when things were feeling a bit wobbly. My laptop hard drive had died and, separately, my life was beginning a huge shift; but I was in one of my happy places in the world – Scotland! – and in good company. I decided that making it my turn to cook dinner would cheer me up, and it absolutely did.
2 28-oz. cans diced tomatoes (try to get these unsalted)
2 tsp. honey
1 tsp. balsamic or sherry vinegar
1 tsp. dried basil
1 bay leaf
2 1/2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
1/3 cup almond milk (if you’re feeling decadent or can do dairy, whipping cream or half-and-half are amazing to add)
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil, for garnish
Heat oil in a dutch oven or stock pot over medium heat. Add onion and garlic; cook 5 minutes. The onion pieces will be translucent.
Add tomatoes, sugar, vinegar, basil, bay leaf, and broth. Cover, and simmer 10 minutes
Remove bay leaf (Remember to do this or you will end up with bay leaf bits in your soup when its blended. They hurt your tongue…)
Purée soup in blender, food processor, or with a stick blender (this is what I use) until smooth. (OPTIONAL: Strain through a mesh strainer into a large bowl (or if you were using a blender, back into the pot); return to simmer.)
Remove from heat, and stir in chosen “dairy” – I use almond milk
Season with salt and pepper, if desired
Garnish with basil (optional)
Serve with with grilled cheese sandwiches or with some soda biscuits. Bon appetit!
Autumn is my favourite season because it’s when I get to pull out my cozy sweaters and wrap myself up in my blanket scarf. It also means the temperature has cooled down enough for me to properly bake again. (My favourite baking recipe is at the end of this post!) Autumn is also a season of change.
We are now full on into the holiday season, which means shopping, parties, shortbread, and, let’s face it, feeling a bit like you’re running around like a chicken with its head cut off. This is not a feeling exclusive to Christmas time, but it’s certainly amplified at this time of year. Unexpected guests, forgetting presents, hopping from event to event (I had three last Thursday!).
How to survive the most wonderful time of the year – and, really, anything that comes your way? Three key things to remember:
We have officially hit comfort food season. Read: cold (and usually rainy where I am). But that means savoury, hearty foods that smell amazing. Like Shepherd’s Pie.
Side note: Have you ever chosen to make a dish that happens to be someone’s favourite and is also a “national” dish from where they come from? Like said Shepherd’s Pie? It is a mildly daunting and ambitious task.
But I was up for it. With some help from Google and the Brit it was being made for, I cobbled together a recipe that was easy and delicious – thank goodness! I varied a bit with some ingredients – not the peas or Worcestershire Sauce, you don’t mess with those – so I can’t say it was traditional Shepherd’s Pie. And, really, it was Cottage Pie as I wasn’t using lamb. But, since I was informed the pie mix looked “authentic”, and it was then eaten with gusto, I can say it was a successful endeavour. It also passed the leftovers for lunch test – phew!
It can be as healthy or as decadent as you want it to be and it will make your kitchen smell fantastic. Stay warm, folks!
1 1/2 to 2 pounds potatoes (about 3 large potatoes), peeled and quartered
4 tablespoons (half stick) butter – make sure is is soft
4 large garlic cloves – minced or finely diced
1/4-1/2 cup milk or cream – OPTIONAL but makes for creamy mashed potatoes!
1/4-1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese (OPTIONAL)
For the Pie Mix:
4-6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil OR 4 tablespoons of butter
1 medium onion – chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
2-3 carrots – diced
1 cup frozen peas
8 white mushrooms – finely sliced (OPTIONAL)
1 1/2 lbs ground round beef
1/2 cup beef broth
1/4 cup dry white wine (OPTIONAL – for the mushrooms)
Lea & Perrin’s Worcestershire sauce – to taste
1 small can (5.5 oz) tomato paste
Salt, pepper, other seasonings of choice – to taste
Preheat oven to 400°F. Do all your chopping and dicing.
Place the peeled and quartered potatoes in medium sized pot. Cover with at least an inch of cold water. Add a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook until tender – about 20 minutes.
While the potatoes are cooking, warm the olive oil (or melt the butter) in a large sauté pan on medium heat.
Add the chopped onions and cook until tender, about 6 to 10 minutes.
Toss in the carrots partway through the onion cooking time.
OPTIONAL – Add the mushrooms with the carrots and pour in all or half of the white wine. Stir it up. Let everything simmer and cook for 5 minutes.
Check on your potatoes.
Add ground beef to the pan with the onions and vegetables. Cook until no longer pink.Toss in the peas.
Add the Worcestershire sauce (be generous!), tomato paste*(optional, but amazing), and beef broth. Bring the broth to a simmer and reduce heat to low.
Check on your potatoes.
Cook uncovered for 10 minutes, adding more beef broth, if necessary, to keep the meat from getting dry. Season to taste with salt, pepper, dried herbs. Add more Worcestershire sauce if you are inclined – we were! Let everything simmer on low heat. Stir every few minutes. The longer you let it simmer, the more the flavour gets locked in!
Check on your potatoes. (Yes, again.)
When the potatoes are done cooking (a fork can easily pierce), drain the potatoes in a colander and put in a large bowl with the softened butter and the minced garlic. Mash to your heart’s content with a fork or potato masher. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
OPTIONAL – Mash in the milk/cream for super creamy mashed potatoes!
OPTIONAL – Add grated cheddar cheese to the mix.
Spread the pie mix in a large baking or casserole dish. Spread the mashed potatoes over the top.
If you want to get crafty, use a fork to make some pretty peaks and patterns in the potatoes so that they get well browned.
OPTIONAL – Sprinkle some grated cheddar cheese overtop before putting the casserole dish in the oven.
Place in a 400°F oven and cook until browned and bubbling, about 30 minutes. If necessary, broil for the last few minutes to help the surface of the mashed potatoes brown a bit more.
Let settle for 5 minutes before dishing out servings.
*TIP – For the tomato paste, open the top of the can so that it is a flap. Carefully open the bottom of the can all the way so that you can use it to push the tomato paste through the top in to the pan. Not going to lie, this blew my mind.
All food is comfort food. Maybe I just like to chew.