Munchie Monday: How to Feed a Family

htfafEven though I’m not cooking for a family of my own, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on How to Feed a Family by Laura Keogh and Ceri Marsh, the ladies behind the Sweet Potato Chronicles blog.

Confession: I had a tiny fangirl moment when I realized this book was happening, because I read The Fabulous Girl’s Guide to Decorum, which Ceri Marsh wrote with Kim Izzo, when I had my first publishing internship. It was my first “real job” and I felt like I was learning some city-girl secrets in there.

This is pretty much the Fabulous Girl’s cookbook. Even if you’re not trying to get a meal on the table for fussy kids, HTFAF is full of crowd pleasers. There’s not much in this cookbook that screams “kid food” – everything’s so scruptious looking (lush photography!) and full of good stuff. Besides, nobody’s pickier than kids, so if the recipes in here are kid-approved, I’m sure there won’t be any complaints.

I flagged practically everything, but started with the Pumpkin Granola (p18). I added chia seeds to mine, and since my apartment-size oven can only fit apartment-sized baking sheets, mine were more “bars” than “clusters” – all the better to eat while running for the streetcar, in my opinion. Seriously, everyone’s aflutter about Pumpkin Spice Lattes right now, but this stuff’s got everything you love about the PSL, in granola form. Plus craisins. Who DOESN’T love a good craisin?*

I can’t wait to try out the lemon linguini and wagamama cookies, and drooled more than I care to admit thinking about making the sweet potato mac and cheese (seriously. I dare you to check out this cookbook and not dream about it).

Go pick this up. Seriously. And check out the Sweet Potato Chronicles online. And cook everything. Even if not for a family. (Better if not for a family – then you get all the leftovers to yourself!)

*If you don’t like dried cranberries, I don’t think we can be friends. Sorry.


Munchie Monday: Mediterranean Fish Stew

bookcoverSome TV chefs have cookbooks in which the recipes are designed to be slaved over, lovingly, to impress dinner party guests. And that’s all well and good, but sometimes you need recipes for everyday dinners that won’t take till midnight to prepare.

The recipes in Back to Basics cover almost any meal you’d need to serve, from a quick Tuesday night dinner to an impressive dinner party, and there are enough “twists” to have a few variations of each dish – so when you fall in love with one, you won’t be making the exact same one every time your friends come for dinner.

mfsI have a confession to make – when I tried out this Mediterranean Fish Stew from Back to Basics, there were a few firsts: This is the first time I’d ever cooked with Fennel (I know, I know) and the first time I’ve cooked fish other than salmon. (I have this weird mental block about cooking fish – I love eating it, but I’m always a bit scared to cook it myself!)

I find the licorice-y flavour of fennel quite overpowering, so I left out the Pernod and added some red and yellow peppers to my stew to bulk it up. I don’t think he’d mind – Chef Michael always seems to be putting a little spin on things.

Mediterranean Fish Stew
Adapted from
Back to Basics, by Michael Smith

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 diced onion
  • 4 minced garlic cloves
  • 1 fennel bulb, diced
  • 1 can tomatoes (MS suggests whole tomatoes, I used crushed)
  • The zest and juice of 4 oranges
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon saffron
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • lots of pepper
  • 1-2 pounds of fresh seafood or skinless fish (I used cod – use what you’ve got!)
  • 4 green onions, chopped
  • 1/4 cup of anise liqueur (sambuca, Pernod, or ouzo)
  • Mo’s add-ins: 1-2 cups chopped greens (arugula, kale, and spinach are what I used), 1-2 cups chopped red and yellow peppers, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (I like it spicy, what can I say.)

Heat the oil in a deep pan on the stovetop, and saute the garlic, onions, fennel, and any other veggies you may have decided to add, 3-4 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and the fennel seeds, coriander, saffron, salt, and pepper, and bring to a simmer. Once steadily simmering, add the fish and stir, simmering, until the fish is fully cooked, 5-6 minutes. Add the green onions and any greens at the last minute, so they retain some of their crispness.

Munchie Monday: Senegalese Peanut Soup Update

A few months ago I started trying to rip off Soup Nutsy’s peanut chicken soup recipe, and I posted this version a while ago. I’ve since improved the recipe, so here goes – the new and improved version! The crushed tomatoes help the soup thicken up more like the Soup Nutsy version (my previous recipe was a bit too thin), and grating the ginger really amps up the flavour. I think my version is more veggie-heavy than Nutsy’s, but come on. Who says no to extra good stuff?

West African Peanut Soup with Chicken

  • 3/4 cup roasted and shelled peanuts
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 chopped cubanelle peppers
  • 1 tablespoon grated ginger (I use a zesting grater, to get it very fine!)
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 chicken breasts, cut into chunks
  • 1/2 tablespoon red chili paste
  • Pinch of cayenne (or more, because you’re like me and like it HOT.)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4-5 cups chicken stock (depending how thick you want the soup to be)
  • 1 sweet potatoes peeled and cut into thick slices
  • 1 can of crushed tomatoes
  • 2 cups kale or spinach, torn
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup smooth, “unnatural” peanut butter. (Natural peanut butters don’t dissolve as nicely in the soup.)
  • 2 cups diced peppers (red, orange and yellow are all good!)
  • Optional veggie additions: Diced zucchini, broccoli stalks, carrots, corn, snow peas…almost anything will work. Whatever you have on hand would probably be great!)

1. Chop peanuts and veggies, preferably with a great soundtrack. Just be careful with your knife while dancing.

2. Put oil in a big soup pot and warm it up on low-medium heat. Add onion, ginger and garlic and cook, stirring, until the onion is translucent. Add the chicken and cook for 5-8 minutes. Add the chili paste, chopped cubanelles and cayenne and stir until well mixed in. Cook for another 1-2 minutes until the spicy stuff is getting fragrant.

3. Pour in the crushed tomatoes and the stock, bring to a simmer, then add all of your veggies and chopped peanuts. Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

4. Stir in 1/4 cup peanut butter. Once the PB has dissolved, taste, then add more PB if you feel you need to. Simmer for another 10 minutes, so all the ingredients can absorb the peanut-buttery flavour.

5. Serve garnished with extra peanuts and/or kale chips. To really match the Soup Nutsy experience, a thick slice of crusty bread and an apple are great sides.

Makes approx. 6 servings, so make sure you have some lunch-sized containers ready to fill. This soup freezes very well, so don’t be scared to double-batch and save some for flu season.

Leave out the chicken and use veggie stock if you’re a vegetarian or serving veggie friends, It’s pretty great that way, too.

Nerd Lust Thursday: CreativeMornings

2012 / 11 NORA YOUNG from CreativeMornings/Toronto on Vimeo.

CreativeMornings is a breakfast lecture series that happens all over the world (and online!) and is a huge repository of creative, brainy folks talking about what they’re passionate and curious about.

Nora Young (from CBC’s Spark) spoke awhile ago in Toronto about how data is being collected from so much of what we do. It’s fascinating to think about the data trail we’re all amassing through living connected, online lives. Her book The Virtual Self also expands on this, but this is a great jumping-off point.

Check out the CreativeMornings site to find more videos from past lectures. There are chapters in Toronto, Vancouver, and tons of other cities around the world. Will you go?

Lisa Congdon – Like Knows Like from Like Knows Like on Vimeo.

In a similar vein, the LikeKnowsLike project is a series of short documentaries on different creative pros. So inspiring!

Munchie Monday: Coconut Oil and Brown Sugar cookies


Rachel made these tasty treats for my campfire party back in April, and I’ve been meaning to ask her for the recipe for ages. Alas, it’s August and I’ve just gotten around to it.

Worth the wait? Absolutely. These cookies are soft and delicious and deceptively simple. This is only my second time ever baking with coconut oil, and I think I’m in love. It’s so good.

The recipe’s online at Averie Cooks – you can find it here. If you scroll down to the bottom you can find some other variations, like white chocolate or maple, if this brown sugar version isn’t your jam. (But they should be. Because really. Brown sugar!)

Note: DO NOT store these cookies in a paper bag. Not that anything bad will happen, but the paper absorbs the oil from these babies and it looks pretty gross. Use a tin instead. Trust me on this.

Nerd Lust Thursday: I love strange facts.

In 6th grade, my teacher was helping our class get ready for the science fair, and gave some examples of projects we could do. All the standards – volcanoes, home chemistry, creating an AM radio…and then, offhandedly, she said “you don’t have to go crazy and like, calculate the horsepower of a snail or something.”

WELL. Young Mo took that as a challenge. Snails were hard to come by (we were having a dry season) so I used some of my allowance money to buy a hermit crab, which I then used in a series of experiments in my bathtub, timing it as it scuttled across a racetrack (marked on the bottom of the bathtub with a yardstick and masking tape), and then calculating the horsepower of my little hermit crab. Clearly I was the coolest kid.

I think my teacher was impressed.*

While I may have ended up getting an arts degree and working in Publishing, learning about science and nature is a bit of a hobby of mine, and fun facts are EVERYWHERE.

I love checking the “Strange But True” section at Scientific American (did you know you are more bacteria than you are you?), listening to the podcasts from How Stuff Works, browsing articles on PopSci, watching episodes of QI, and of course, reading tons of books. When reading Half Empty by David Rakoff I learned you can use an animal’s brains to tan it’s hide, and every animal has JUST enough brain to tan their whole hide. Isn’t nature perfect, in a sort of revolting way?

Do you love weird facts? What’s the strangest/craziest thing you’ve learned recently?

* my 6th grade teacher stepped on my hermit crab when it escaped from my science fair display overnight. I’ve always wondered if she bumped up my grade in apology.

Munchie Monday: Nutella Chocolate Chip

nutellaHere’s the thing. Nutella is one of those things that everyone seems to be in love with right now, and for good reason. These cookies are incredible. I’ll definitely have them in my regular rotation for office cookie plates and book club meetings.

Perfect Nutella Chocolate Chip Cookies (adapted from Fab Brunette)

  •  2-1/4 cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons Baking Soda
  • 1/2 cup Butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • ¼ – ⅓ cup of Nutella
  • 1 cup milk chocolate chips
  • pinch salt

In a mixing bowl, cream together butter, sugars, and vanilla. Once creamed, slowly mix in eggs, then the rest of the dry ingredients, except the nutella and chocolate chips. Dough should form a rough ball.

Drop the nutella from a teaspoon in small dollops over the cookie dough and fold in using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon. Do not overmix – you want the nutella to be swirled” through the cookies.

Gently fold in the chocolate chips.

Refrigerate dough for 2 hours or overnight. (I find this makes the nutella flavour set more deeply into the dough. If you can’t wait that long to shovel these into your mouth, you can skip this step.)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment or silpat. Drop dough from a teaspoon or cookie sheet, leaving LOTS of space (these cookies spread!).

Bake for 9-10 minutes, until edges are browned. Watch your fingers on the hot cookie sheet because I KNOW once you smell these baking you won’t even want to wait for them to cool.