No Butter, Dairy-free, “Butter” Chicken

I wish I had a good story to go with this recipe. Because I’m so excited to post about it…

A few weeks ago I started wishing I could eat Butter Chicken. I had made a recipe from the Cooking School Indian cookbook years ago, and LOVED it, but knew the recipe wouldn’t do this time around. No dairy. And the chickpea flour likely wouldn’t make me feel well. It was time to find some substitutes.

So I googled “dairy-free butter chicken.” I found a bunch of recipes that called for… you guessed it… BUTTER. So much for dairy free. So I kept digging. Nothing seemed quite right. Some of the curries seemed bland. Others too complicated. There was no consistency on what was recommended for the curry sauce.

So I compared my favourites by amalgamating the ingredient lists, picking the spices or foods that showed up most frequently, cutting the rest, readding a few I liked, cutting what I thought might not belong… it was quite the process.

Recipe inspired by the many many recipes I read ahead of time:

By no means would I call this a quick meal. It took a bit of work… and a lot of planning. But it’s sooooooo worth it. (I can’t wait to see S’s reaction to this meal. He doesn’t love curry, but I think this might change his mind!)

Ingredients

It’s all about the base

  • 1 lb boneless skinless chicken pieces
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil for frying
  • Basmati rice, naan bread, or roti

Marinade

  • ¼ tsp green cardamom
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp coriander
  • ¼ tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 cm ginger
  • 1/4 lemon, sliced
  • 1 onion, grated
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup water (or just enough to cover)

Sauce

  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • ¼ tsp green cardamom
  • ½ tsp chili powder
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • 1 can coconut cream
  • ¼ tsp coriander
  • ¼ tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cm ginger, peeled and sliced
  • 2 tbsp lemon
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 small can tomato paste
  • ½ tsp turmeric

Optional garnish

  • Fresh or dried cilantro

Tip: Mix all the spices at once, then divide the mixture in half. Half for the marinade and half for the sauce. There is a small variation in the spice mixtures, so this doesn’t make a big difference in the resulting meal.

  • ½ tsp green cardamom
  • ½ tsp chili powder
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp coriander
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp turmeric

Bonus Tip: Make extra spice mixtures while you have them all out of the cupboard. This will significantly cut down prep time the next time you make this recipe.

Directions

  1. Make the marinade
    • Grate the onion, garlic, and ginger (or do this the easy way and put the ingredients through a mini food processor)
    • Slice 1/4 lemon.
    • Combine spices: green cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, garam masala, paprika, pepper, salt, and turmeric
    • Chop chicken into bite-sized chunks.
    • In a shallow container, add chicken pieces. Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with spices. Add grated onion, garlic, and ginger. Then, add just enough water to cover.
    • Let it marinate for at least an hour. I like to put the marinade together in the morning so there’s tons of flavour soaked in by dinner time.
  2. Make the sauce
    • Heat half of the coconut oil on low heat.
    • Add onion slices and cook until caramelized (about 20 minutes).
    • Add garlic and continue to cook until fragrant (about a minute).
    • Remove garlic and onions to your blender.
    • Cook the roma tomato pieces on low heat until they are soft and the liquid is reduced/thick.
    • Add the tomatos to the blender mixture.
    • Also add the ginger.
    • Blend until smooth (if you have cats, the noise will probably scare them away at this point, mine were begging for chicken prior to the blender making noise).
    • Heat remaining coconut oil.
    • Add spice mixture: green cardamom, chili powder, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, garam masala, pepper, salt, turmeric and lightly fry it until fragrant.
    • Add the tomato paste and the blended tomato and onion mixture.
    • Cook over low heat until bubbly.
  3. Brown the chicken over high heat.
  4. Put it all together
    1. Add the chicken to the tomato sauce and continue to cook until cooked through.
    2. Add lemon juice and coconut cream.

Serve hot with naan bread, rice, or roti! This makes lots of food, so share with your friends. But don’t share this with your kitties, even if they think it might be a good idea.

Advertisements

Vegas Vacation Day 2: Panty Wall

Day 2 we finally had all out friends together! With 6 people piled into our rented mini van, we headed out to the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.

Half of our group went to climb Cat in the Hat, a 5 pitch trad climb at Mescalito.

K in Ohio, S, and I spent the day at Panty Wall, where there were many single pitch sport routes for us to climb!

The approach seemed much easier than the previous day. It was about half the length. And I had learned not to wear so many layers! The path itself was a bit easier too. There was a defined, well marked trail. Whereas the path to Physical Graffiti was less defined and more scrambling. After a tough previous day, I was glad for the easier hike. Also, there was little chance of getting lost, because you could see the parking lot from the wall!

Panty Wall was one of my favourites because the routes were the type where I excel. The routes were not overhanging. There were lots of good crimps. And the climbs relied a lot on taking your time and balancing. Awesome!

I wish I could remember exactly which routes we climbed that day, but based on reading The Crag, I think we sent:

  • Silk Panties
  • The Last Panty
  • Black Lace
  • Boxer Rebellion
  • Sacred Undergarment Squeeze Job
DSC_7181

K in Ohio is a super amazing safe belayer.

One thing to note about the Panty Wall is that there is a lot of sun exposure, especially at midday. While many people were able to keep climbing, this pasty Canadian took a nap in the shade of a rock.

One of the fun things about climbing single pitch is that you get to meet a lot of interesting people. The climbs are shorter, so there are more opportunities to chat or share beta. We struck up a few conversations with some people from all over the US. However, what was really awesome is that we met other Canadians… from our home province… from the same city… and who climb at the same gym! And were not aware we would all be there on the same day. (Hey friends, if you’re reading this, I haven’t forgotten that I took some pictures for you and am still planning to post them on Facebook at some point)

The highlight of our day, however, was trying to get the group back together. We made it back to the parking lot as the sun was going down. We watched the sunset. We took lots of pictures. We chatted. We enjoyed the city lights from a distance. We joked about having to find our own way back to the city.

When we finally heard from the other group (who were now really late completing their climb), they let us know that the road back to us was closed and we would have to meet them at the park entrance. So we started walking. It was a really beautiful night, so we didn’t mind. I don’t remember who had this bright idea (probably me…), but we decided that we should all turn off our headlamps and enjoy the stars! Sounds beautiful, right? It was. However, I cannot reiterate enough… DON’T WALK IN THE DARK IN THE DESERT. (This is probably common sense if you’re form around there, but it was not fo us.) We’re walking along, enjoying the sights, looking up… when we heard a distinct rattle. RATTLE SNAKE! We panicked. We ran away. And nothing bad happend. We were really lucky.

Later that evening, we looked up what would be a more appropriate evasive action and how to respond to a snake attack. Thank you Internet.

The lesson I took away from this is always be aware of the local wildlife (and plants) that can hurt you. We were more careful from then on to watch for snakes. We kept our distance from lizards. We didn’t touch the cacti. And we kept our eyes peeled for the illusive Desert Tortoise.

When we travelled to West Virginia months later, one of the first things I did was ask a local (at the climbing shop, of course) what wildlife resided in the area that we should watch out for.

Vegas Vacation Day 1: Physical Graffiti

So many things happened on our first full day in Vegas!

We started our day early. Like, even a morning person would say it was an early morning kind of early. Because we knew we were a large group and wanted dibs on a particular climb.

So we dragged our butts out of bed. After arriving on late flight. Checking into our hotel around midnight-ish. And catching a very late dinner. And thus started the trend of sleeping maybe 4-5 hours per night.

Some of the group had been to Red Rocks the previous year. And I was warned that it could be scorching hot at ground level and snowing by the time you get to the top of the mountain. So I dressed in layers. 3 layers, like the good Canadian I am. I wasn’t about to risk getting cold.

Learning Experience #1: I forgot about the other extreme. It was about a 45 minute hike to our climb and I was ROASTING about 15 minutes in. I tried to press on and keep up. But I was overheating and slowing down because of it… so I had to stop and take off my warm layer

Learning Experience #2 : How in the world was I going to fit the clothing into my already overfull pack?! Pack light if you’re climbing multi-pitch.

Anyway, by the time we arrived, we found that a group was already climbing Big Bad Wolf. And there was another waiting. So we changed our plan and set up to climb Physical Graffiti, which happened to be right beside it.

Learning Experience #3: Don’t plan any sightseeing, insist on a stop, dawdle, or in any way delay the group in the morning. You might not get your first pick of routes!

We split into a group of 2 and a group of 3. I excitedly fastened my GoPro to my helmet. I was the coolest kid at the crag.

Being my first multi-pitch, and a trad multi-pitch at that. I followed. (With some more experience, I hope to lead such a climb some day!) I was giddy the entire first pitch because this climb crossed off many “firsts”: climbing outside of Ontario, climbing sandstone, and climbing a multi-pitch. This pitch was also made super fun by the group next to us who started a sing-a-long. Second pitch was a bit more challenging. The winds got stronger and the temperature cooled off a bit. I could barely communicate with my leader… and the leader that was following behind me. (Next time I won’t make fun of the idea to bring walkie talkies.) The second pitch was also a bit more challenging. Just breath. I had to tell myself a few times when I was unsure of a move. You’re essentially on top rope. You’re safe. From there, we anchored ourselves in for a while and waited for the others to catch up. Then, as a group, we scrambled to the top to enjoy the view!

We hung out here for quite a while. We took pictures. And practiced yoga. And some basic acro yoga (flying bird).

To top off an absolutely amazing day, we picked K in Ohio up from the airport that evening!

What Happens in Vegas…

Around this time last year, I was in the midst of booking my first ever trip to Las Vegas. I keep debating whether I want to share any of our stories because it was so long ago. But I don’t want to forget the fun times we had, so I’m going to try to document the highlights.

Being such a popular tourist destination, I had many recommendations about the best deals on places to stay, eat, party, gamble… And while this advice was great, I tried politely thank them for the advice and explain that there was a good chance I wouldn’t get to any of the more traditional Vegas experiences. But if I’m not there for Vegas… then why in the world was I going???

I was there for Red Rock Canyon – just outside of town. I was there for the hiking, the scrambles, the views, and, most importantly, the rock climbing!

Day 1 we travelled. 5 of us made our way to the airport, sang the Monorail song from The Simpsons (on while taking the airport train/monorail/transport), and then went through the motions of travel. Not too exciting, except for the random break into song!

We spent a week in Vegas, and there are tons of pictures and stories to share… and some I won’t. Because that’s the fun of travelling to Vegas, am I right?

Meet Loki!

A few weeks ago I introduced our new kitten, Furry. Now, it’s Loki’s turn!

IMG_20151111_211657

Loki found me. I had recently moved to yet another student-house and missed having a pet terribly (So it was not difficult for her to persuade me to let her stay).

When Loki first wandered into our home, she was a skinny and scruffy looking cat. And she was sick. Ear mites. Worms. Malnourished (and missing most of her hair).

Most cats I had met previously, especially strays, were shy. So I was surprised when the scrappy neighbourhood stray came right up to my roommate and me, allowed us to pet her, and happily ate the half a can of tuna we offered. We played with her for a bit, put the cat outside, and closed the door. And she meowed pitifully! At that moment, I knew she was here to stay.

20151129_121749

A few weeks later, Loki (named for her curiosity and habit of getting into mischief) was a looking much healthier after a trip to the vet and lots of food. We soon found out there were kittens on the way (five tiny kittens to be exact). What an experience! Not only did I have to learn how to care for a cat, but I also got a crash course in raising kittens. The kittens have long since grown and found good homes.

Loki is now a happy, healthy, and well-loved cat. She has moved with me numerous times, spent a few weeks living with Nana, and recently acquired a new sister, Furry. She has many good stories — like the time we found her on the roof, falling into the laundry hamper, trying to catch a bat, stealing food, and more!

20151227_214924

  • Favourite foods: tuna or sardines, garlic sauce,  green apples
  • Least favourite foods: lemon, lime, sauerkraut
  • Favourite toys: Feather boa, jumping spider
  • Likes: Snuggling, greeting visitors at the front door, drinking water from the tap
  • Dislikes: The vacuum, bath time (but she’ll reluctantly put up with it), when I go away without her
  • Favourite spot: The solarium, where she can “hunt” for squirrels and bunnies on the other side of the glass

IMG_20151113_182644

Liebster Award

Abi from Travel Tea Tv kindly nominated my blog for a Liebster Award. Thanks Abi! Even though I’ve only been blogging a few months and I really feel like there’s not much content (YET), I’m glad to hear that you like what you’ve read so far! 🙂

HOW IT WORKS:

  • You’re nominated by another blogger, who has been nominated themselves.
  • The nominator comes up with 11 questions, which as a nominee you are expected to answer.
  • You must then come up with 11 questions of your own, and put them to your nominees, and if they choose to accept, they continue the trail by answering your questions, selecting blogs they like to nominate and then giving them 11 questions.

Abi’s Questions:

  1. Where are you from?
    Ontario, Canada!
  2. Where would you recommend to others to visit that’s local to you?
    Grand River Rocks climbing gym, St. Jacob’s Farmer’s Market, Huron Natural Area.
  3. How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
    Crazy cat lady 🙂
  4. Best place you’ve ever been? (City, Country, Museum, Supermarket… Anything.)
    Red Rock Canyon, Nevada
  5. Worst place you’ve ever been? (Same rules as above)
    I’m an optimist and like to make the best of things.
  6. Favourite shoes to travel in?
    My Arc’teryx approach shoes!
  7. Greatest character you’ve ever met whilst travelling?
    I’ve met a lot of random people. But I think the coincidence of meeting people from home while abroad is always fun.
  8. What movie can you watch again and again?
    Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl
  9. Favourite hot beverage?
    Currently, cinnamon rooibos tea
  10. What’s your go to dish? Either you’d make / order in a restaurant?
    Make at home: Spaghetti and meat/tomato sauce
    Eating out: French fries
  11. Finally, if you could live in any era, what would it be?
    Present! I love the freedom I have to live my life exactly as it is.

My Nominees

  1. Social Hermit Expat
  2. There and Back Again: A Human’s Tale
  3. I really (and I mean REALLY) hate hats!
  4. Sophie’s Foodie Files
  5. Adventures in Cat Fostering
  6. A Roaming Appetite
  7. TrailChaser2020
  8. Is There A Word for That
  9. Redrock Outdoors Life
  10. Pig Tails and Puppy Dog Tails
  11. Amy’s Food Adventures

My Questions

  1. Why did you start blogging?
  2. What inspires you to keep writing?
  3. Which of your blog posts are you most proud of?
  4. What is your biggest personal goal for 2016?
  5. What was the most awesome thing to happen in your life in 2015?
  6. Where is your favorite vacation spot?
  7. Where do you plan to travel to next, and why?
  8. What is the most adventurous thing you’ve ever done?
  9. What is your favourite snack food?
  10. What is your favourite YouTube video of the moment?
  11. What are your thoughts on the new Star Wars movie?

Dairy-Free Creamy Mushroom Soup

At home, I try to cook without dairy, but it’s generally not the end of the world if I eat some — in moderation — while out. And by moderation I mean some butter on the food, a splash of milk, or a nibble of cheese. But I wouldn’t eat a creamy soup.

Avoiding dairy seems really restricting at times. Passing up homemade cheesecake at family functions is the worst. And I always hesitate before saying no to whipped cream.

A few weeks ago I had a craving for one of those dairy-filled foods that I had almost completely forgotten about. Cream of mushroom soup! (Which is weird to me because I refused to eat mushrooms as a child, and couldn’t eat the dairy by the time I was an adult)

Anyway, I set out to make a dairy-free version, which could easily be made vegetarian by substituting vegetable stock.

My initial thoughts:

  • I made wayyyy too much. I had satisfied the craving by the third bowl of soup and didn’t want to eat any more. I would divide the recipe in half next time.
  • A variety of mushrooms would have made the soup more flavourful.
  • I would make this again, but as an appetizer, not a stand alone meal.

20151116_220741

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds mushrooms (I used regular white mushrooms because they were on sale. Next time I would use a mixture. Maybe some shiitake, oyster, enoki and crimini)
  • 1 spanish onion, diced
  • 2 cans of coconut cream
  • 2 teaspoons coconut oil
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves

Directions

  1. Add 1 teaspoon of coconut oil to frying pan and sautee the onion until translucent, then set aside.
  2. Add 1 teaspoon of coconut oil to frying pan and sautee the mushrooms, then set aside.
  3. When onions are cooled, blend with 1 cup of the chicken stock. Add a bit more chicken stock if needed to blend until smooth.
  4. When mushrooms are cooled, blend with 3 cups of the chicken stock. Add coconut cream if needed to blend until smooth.
  5. Add blended onions and mushrooms to a cooking pot. Add any remaining coconut cream and the thyme.
  6. Cook until hot, then serve and enjoy!

Beef Heart Roast with Pepper and Garlic

Before you say “EW! No way!” and pass by this recipe. Give it a chance!

“When it comes to calories and protein, beef heart is about equal to white-meat chicken.” — SFGate Healthy Eating

Yes, I grew up eating offal meats. Yes, the texture is a bit different from what you’re used to.

HOWEVER…

It is lean meat. It is cost effective. And it is delicious! Just ask Scotty – I convinced him to give this a try a few months ago and he happily eats roasted beef heart any time I make it. WIN!

Beef Heart Roast with Pepper and Garlic

image

Ingredients

  • Beef heart
  • Lots of garlic, minced
  • Black pepper
  • Green peppercorns, ground
  • Sea salt

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Prepare/trim the beef heart (or ask your local butcher to help you out).
  3. Coat roast with garlic, both types of ground peppercorns, and sea salt.
  4. Bake for about 20 minutes – roast and garlic should be nicely browned.
  5. Turn oven down to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
  6. Continue to bake until cooked through and tender (this took about 75 minutes for this particular roast).
  7. Let the roast rest for about 10-15 minutes. Slice and serve!

Why not try this roast topped with bacon jam?

Welcome to the Family Furry [fyoo r-ee]

Well, I made it five whole blog posts before I absolutely had to talk about cats. Told you I’m a crazy cat lady. 🙂

I’ve had a one-cat household for quite a while now. I found Loki when I was in undergrad (but that’s a story for another blog post). She lived with my roommate’s cat for a year, and has been an only-cat ever since. Except the odd occasion when I would cat sit for a friend.

I had wanted to adopt a second cat for a few years, but always had reservations… On December 2, we welcomed my second fur baby to the household.

A few weeks ago I stopped at the Kitchener Waterloo Humane Society. Of course, this required that I stop to visit all of the animals. Through the glass, I fell in love with a cat. A huge, black, fluffy cat. He came up the the window and played with us. But, when I went to ask about him, adoption hours were over. After having some serious talks about what kind of feline personality would fit into our home, we went back a few days later.

Wanting to beat the Black Friday rush, we met almost all of the cats that were on the adoption floor. They were all wonderful. Really! We made some good connections with the animals, but I didn’t find anyone I really thought would get along with Loki.

The adoption councillor was so patient and helpful. And, she had a great idea. She mentioned that she had been fostering a kitten, and that it was living with other cats and dogs. The kitten was used to playing with a large adult cat. But she had recently been spayed and was not ready for adoption yet. We agreed to come back later to meet her.

A week later, I went in to see if she was available. I immediately recognized the kitten from the picture I’d seen a week earlier. and there was a sign that she had been adopted. 20151202_184011

My heart sunk. I made the phone call to say she already had a home. And once again was ready to give up on the idea of adding another cat to the family.

Before I left though, I wanted to thank the adoption councillor for her help and time earlier.

Turns out, the kitten was on hold for us to meet! And, well, by the title of this blog post you can tell how that went. Welcome to the family little Furry!

20151202_210518

Beet and Wild Rice Salad

For me, this recipe screams Fall! Thanksgiving! Family time! One of my aunts makes a variation of this salad for family get togethers. This is a copycat version of her recipe.

The original recipe calls for regular feta cheese, if you prefer.

My family uses Black Duck Wild Rice, from Peterborough, Ontario. This rice is roasted with maple wood and makes your entire home smell absolutely amazing!

Beet and Wild Rice Salad

image

Ingredients

  • Beets
  • Wild rice
  • Dill (fresh), chopped
  • Goat feta cheese, crumbled
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Olive oil
  • Maple syrup

Directions

  1. Cook beets and wile rice at the same time. Boil the beets until cooked through, and cook wild rice according to directions (I made about 12 beets + 1 cup of wild rice).
  2. Rub beets with a paper towel to remove the skin (and wear rubber gloves so you don’t dye your hands). Seriously, this works really well and there is less waste than if you try to peel with a pairing knife.
  3. Slice beets into bite-sized pieces and add to wild rice.
  4. Add dill and goat feta cheese, then stir.
  5.  Mix the vinaigrette (2 parts olive oil, 2 parts balsamic vinegar, 1 part maple syrup).
  6. Pour vinaigrette over salad.
  7. Enjoy warm or chill in the fridge and serve later!