Just let me say, right off the bat, that I like to cook. Really, I do. But for the past decade I have done very little of the cooking that happens in our house. The slow migration of the culinary duties at the Burpee/Eccles abode began when Hubby retired at about the same time I was ramping up my own responsibilities at work by taking on a leadership position. Because I worked longer hours, Hubby started doing all the grocery shopping, and then, little by little, more and more of the cooking. As I’m sure I’ve mentioned here on the blog numerous times, Hubby is not a man to sit on his butt. He’s a get-up-get-moving-do-more-stuff-before-noon-than-most-people-do-in-a day kind of guy. He skis and golfs and gardens and canoes and fishes and cycles and, since his heart surgery, he walks.
And now he cooks. And I am what we both call the “Sue chef.”
I assist. I stand around, pass him things, and dish up the results onto our plates when everything is ready. Each morning, I am also expected to help make the main household decision of the day: “What’s for dinner tonight?”
Food is very important to us. Healthy, tasty food prepared at home has always been our mantra. I wrote a post about our healthy eating journey a few years ago, how our diet changed after Hubby’s heart surgery. You can read that here if you’re interested. But now in this time of corona madness, when we’re all required to stay at home, not just to eat, I thought you might be interested in what we’ve been up to in the kitchen.
The meal below is one Hubby prepared last week after he’d finally shovelled out the barbeque from the snowbank. Grilled pork tenderloin, mashed potatoes, garden peas, and baked squash. The garden peas are from our own garden, as is the squash. Last fall, we had too many squash from the garden to be able to eat them fresh, especially since we were away for a month. So, Hubby baked a whole bunch of acorn squash, scooped out the flesh, mashed it with garlic and maple syrup, and then froze it in meal-sized portions. Yum. Hubby’s squash is my favourite vegetable.
For the pork tenderloin, he sauteed mushrooms, a tiny bit of back bacon, and garlic, then stirred in bread crumbs, parsley, and a bit of feta cheese. Then he stuffed the butterflied tenderloin, rolled it, tied it with string, brushed it with olive oil, and grilled it. Oh my. It was delicious. We’d found the recipe on-line, and Hubby added his own touches, as he is wont to do. He says recipes are just guidelines. This recipe, now annotated, is definitely “a keeper.”
The first year he was retired, I bought Hubby a wok and a huge, and now well-thumbed, book about Chinese cooking. He has never looked back. Stir-fries are his specialty. For the one below he used the other half of the pork tenderloin from the recipe above. He thinly sliced the meat and marinated it in a bunch of stuff: soy sauce, hoisin sauce, sesame oil, minced ginger and garlic, oyster sauce, sweet chili sauce, and a teeny amount of the really hot chili garlic sauce. He just keeps adding everything until it tastes right. Part of this mixture is used to marinate the meat. The rest is set aside.
Then Hubby chops and chops and chops a ton of vegetables. Often whatever we have in the fridge. This time he used the last of the carrots from our garden. As well as red onions, sliced garlic, fennel, peppers, mushrooms, zucchini, and bok choy.
Next he stir-fries the meat and sets it aside, keeping it warm.
Then he cooks the veggies, adding some minced ginger. Here they are, below, when they look their best, all bright green and beautiful. The pot on the stove, in the shot above, is for the egg noodles. Soon the cooked noodles go into the wok with the vegetables and the meat and the remainder of the sauce he prepared earlier and set aside.
Then the Sue chef is called into action. I’m chief spooner and pourer. I am also called upon to cue up this evening’s entertainment. I think we will enjoy an episode of Heartbeat followed by an episode of Frasier. It’s all about gentle comedy and funny lines these days, folks. We eschew news, and politics, and gory, fast-paced drama with our dinner.
The other food that Hubby cooks a lot is fish. His favourite fish cook book is a tattered little book bought for him as a thank-you gift by a friend visiting from Australia. Thanks Renée. For despite Hubby’s claim that he hates recipes, he has to start somewhere for ideas. And this little Catch of the Day: Fish and Seafood book (below) has been priceless. I’m amazed to see that they still sell that book here.
Tonight we’re having one of our favourites, Shiitake Basa Packets. But I’ll let Hubby explain in more detail himself.
Hubby said to be sure to tell you that we had the basa packets with garden peas, steamed broccoli, and steamed rice to which he added sauteed onions and garlic, and toasted slivered almonds and sunflower seeds. I should be a better food stylist, I know. We would have had carrots for more colour, but we ate the last of our carrots in our stir fry the other night. And I could have stopped long enough to strategically place a couple of grape tomatoes as garnish, but I was too hungry to fuss.
So, yeah, that’s what we’ve been up to during this time of social distancing. Besides reading and walking, we’ve been deciding what we want to eat, cooking it, and then talking about it afterward. Well, Hubby is doing most of the cooking. As the Sue chef, I await my instructions. Situation normal for us in so many way. And yet it’s been anything but normal.
How is it that even though the tempo of our lives seems, on the surface, to go on mostly the same as ever, everything feels different? We are not financially imperiled by the pandemic. At least not yet. I am worried about family and friends, but so far no one I know has tested positive or fallen ill. And yet, I have this weirdly nebulous feeling of anxiety all the time. A knot in the pit of my stomach. And I know that it’s not just me.
My friend, former colleague, and former student, Erica shared a funny, and yet impassioned plea on Facebook yesterday for people to please abide by social distancing so that she won’t “be stuck in the house with [her] kids forever.” She was partly joking; she adores her two boys. But I know she’s also feeling a bit desperate about people who seem to break the rules with impunity. As teachers nothing rankles us more than people who think the rules don’t apply to them. Still, I was heartened by our Prime Minister’s words to the nation today, “Enough is enough. Go home and stay home.” Amen to that.
So that’s it from our house today, folks. We’re all fine here. Feeling well, eating well, with lots to read. All is good, really. Except it’s snowing today, so I guess Hubby will go on his walk alone. I cannot force myself to get out my toque. I am so done with winter.
Wouldn’t it be great if winter were done with us?
P.S. A while ago, I left this post for Hubby to proof-read and went down to the basement to pedal my exercise bike. Forty minutes of listening to a mystery audio-book, and scrolling through Pinterest altered my mood considerably. I came back upstairs, scoffing at the snow falling outside, and thinking about the cheddar cheese scones I’ll make tomorrow. I am nothing if not mercurial these days. And I thought I’d tell you about the impending scones so I didn’t end the post on a negative note. Plus you need to know that I can cook. Really, I can. 🙂
What have you been up to my friends? Any comfort food recipes that you recommend… that I can pass onto Hubby?