Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Little Victory Spanikopita

Last night (this morning?) I was up until 4am working on website glitches and learning CSS. To those of you who experienced my narrow passing of programming classes in undergrad, you'll realize that hell must have frozen over by this point.

This morning, the dog's orange, rubber, can be folded-like-a-taco frisbee was swept into the lake by a huge gust of wind. Want to see a dog swim rapidly in circles? Lose their frisbee.

Life is all over the place sometimes and it's easy to get down... I speak from experience (see: previous immigration rant post). However, little victories are also pretty magical sometimes like removing one word to fix a massive programming glitch, finding the orange frisbee washed up on shore a half mile down or making perfect spanikopita. 

Greek food, besides the archetypal greek salad, is a cuisine I have little to no experience with. Phyllo dough is a whole giant shit storm of pastryness I have also zero experience with as it just looks uber scary in its flaky deliciousness. Here's a secret though... it's super easy.

As for little victories, making some damn good spanikopita definitely counts and the world magically seems to be all as it should be... or at least for one flaky bite.

Spanikopita (Greek Spinach Pie) 
- adapted from Food52

24 sheets phyllo dough
1-2 tbsp butter - melted
2 large bunches fresh spinach
2 tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic
splash white wine
8 oz feta cheese - crumbled small
1/4 c parmesan cheese - grated
2 sprigs fresh oregano - chopped
1-2 tbsp fresh basil - chopped
1-2 tbsp fresh mint - chopped
juice from 1/2 lemon
1 egg
s&p - to taste

Preheat oven to 350F. 

In a large pan or pot, saute garlic in olive oil until fragrant. Add spinach and few splashes of wine. Steam until spinach is wilted. Set aside to cool.

Squeeze excess liquid from spinach and place in mixing bowl. Add cheeses, herbs, lemon juice, egg and s&p to taste. Stir until combined

Slice phyllo dough into 3.5-4'' strips. Using your fingers or brush, dab a bit of butter sporadically over each sheet before placing the next layer on top. Repeat with butter/layer process until you have 3-4 sheets. 

Place approximately 2-3 tbsp of filling at the bottom end of the strip of phyllo dough layers, in the center. Fold the right bottom corner up and over to the top left of the filling to form a triangle. Take the bottom left corner and fold up to create a second triangle. Repeat process until you reach the end of the phyllo dough. Seal any remaining dough to the body of the pie with butter.

Continue process until all filling is used. Place pies on baking sheet an inch or so apart.

Bake approximately 15 minutes or until golden brown and crispy. Let cool and serve slightly warm.


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Process of Becoming an Expat

An expat wouldn't be a true expat without some immigration fun thrown in the mix, right? I think the extra lines on your forehead and blood pressure points as a result of the immigration waiting game can be compared to getting a gang tattoo or experiencing some bizarre hazing ritual.

Contrary to popular belief, the following statements about immigration in Canada are entirely and egregiously false:
  1. It's super easy to enter/work/live/stay/get healthcare/become a citizen in Canada
  2. Getting married solves and/or expedites everything
  3. Being an American makes it easier
  4. Having a degree and being employable makes you a shoe-in
  5. It is a fast and straightforward process
From the start of our relationship, we both knew the immigration 'fun' would be part of the gig and for many reasons Canada was, and is, the best place for us. What I did not anticipate however was the amount of angst involved in the waiting. A common statement in response to the process is, "don't worry, everything will be fine" and I sincerely, with every ounce of my being, hope that is the case. However, one does not dare get hopes up, raise expectations, or think just because you've done everything by the book, everything will go as planned because no one knows, do they?

I've never had paperwork dictate my life as much as it does now and I cannot convey in a silly blog post the amount of stress such paperwork has caused. Can I do anything about it at this point? Nope. Does that make me think about it any less? Certainly not. 

Being an immigrant, even one making a rather slight move from the US to Canada, my eyes have been opened to the arduous process. While the news would like to make it appear every criminal, crazy person and unemployable boob can gain entry to Canada or the US, I can tell you first hand it couldn't be farther from the truth. Additionally, by assuming these blanket statements you thus discredit every person who has spent years going through the channels to do it correctly and their many sleepless nights... nights like this one for me. 

I hope all our friends and family are right and everything will be ok. I hope I wont have to recompile the 2 inch thick stack of documents I spent 8 months assembling which included two background checks, blood work, urine work, a chest xray, and a 37 page synopsis of our relationship. I hope a year from now I won't be obsessively checking my application status twice a day. 

I hope by reading this post you have gotten a tiny glimpse into the less than glamourous bit of what goes on for expats and all the people you meet with those fabulous accents.

Peace and Chicken Grease,


Sunday, December 11, 2011

Chipotle Enchiladas & the Battle of the Salt

A mexican restaurant in town charges $16/plate of chicken enchiladas which, on pure principle, I refuse to pay unless there is somehow fois gras worked in. Enchiladas are no doubt tasty but also not too tough or expensive to put together. So, I set off to create my own version that I hoped would not only be far superior but significantly less costly than $16 a plate.

It's only in the last few years I've begun to pay particular attention to the quantity of salt in foods. Even  a simple can of black beans contains 35% of your daily serving of salt. I don't get this, they are already canned, why do they need to be super-duper preserved with loads of salt? Because of modern technology, we no longer have to eat such 'preserved delicacies' like lutefisk (shudder) so why are we putting so much damn salt in everything?

Pre-made enchilada sauce is no exception with 15% daily serving of salt per 1/4 cup. Freaking crazy talk. Enter - homemade enchilada sauce which has 5 ingredients and takes 10 minutes. Not only do you  control the salt but it's way tastier, you'll never buy canned enchilada sauce again.

Over the past many months I've made this recipe well over a dozen times. Repetitive? A little. Delicious? Ridiculously.

It takes a bit of time to put everything together and yes, I know there are a lot of ingredients but I am willing to guess that you have the vast majority of them already in your house. For all the vegetarians out there or if you aren't feeling like eating chicken, I've made these with grilled sweet potato chunks and it was super good too.

I cannot stress the importance of both the chipotles and using corn tortillas; flour tortillas get a bit soggy and the chipotle adds a phenomenal depth and smokiness to the dish, letting the ingredients shine.

Happy spring everyone!

Chipotle Enchiladas


3 bone-in skinless chicken breasts
Season with:
chili powder
cayenne powder

Place in baking dish and cover with tinfoil
Bake at 375 for about 30-45 minutes or until cooked through
Once cool enough to touch, remove meat from bone and shred into bite sized pieces


1 - 14oz can fire roasted tomatoes or crushed tomatoes
6 cloves garlic
1 medium onion
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Saute garlic and onion in 1 tbsp oil over medium heat. Once almost soft, add seasonings. Continue to cook until onions are soft and spices are fragrant. Add tomatoes and be sure to scrape the bottom of the pan to pick up all the good stuff. Cook 2-3 minutes more. Using a hand blender (or transfer to food processor), blend the mixture until smooth. Set aside.


2 cloves garlic
1 medium onion
1 can black beans - rinsed
1 cup frozen corn - thawed
1 can diced green chilies
1/2 can chipotle peppers - chopped
1 - 28oz can stewed tomatoes
corn tortillas
1 c pepper jack or jalapeno havarti cheese
Sour cream
Fresh Cilantro

In a few tbsp of oil, saute garlic and onion until soft. Add chillies, chipotle peppers, corn and black beans. Saute and stir together until combined and fragrant. Add tomatoes and cook until bubbling. Add shredded chicken and combine.

In a 9x13 baking dish, spread about half of the enchilada sauce on the bottom. Lightly dip each tortilla in the enchilada sauce to moisten (it will help it from cracking). Holding a corn tortilla in your hand, add the filling such that there is still room to roll the tortilla up. Place the filled tortilla fold-side down in the baking dish. Repeat until pan is filled. Spoon remaining enchilada sauce on top. Add cheese on top of sauce.

Bake at 375F for 15-20 minutes or until cheese is melted.

Serve with sour cream and fresh cilantro

Friday, December 9, 2011

Post Skiing Chicken Pot Pie

Today we had our first day back on the mountain in almost 18 months. It was a little chilly, the snow a bit crusty and there were enough rocks to make the bases of your skis afraid for their lives but holy crap was it ever a fun day.

Seeing the lodge decorated with garland and lights made everything all of a sudden feel so Christmasy and warm. I loved it. Lately I've been cooking lots of soups, roasted apples in cider (recipe to come!) and I love plugging in the lights for our tree every evening when it seems to get dark at 3pm (the only downside of winter, really).

Geoff is always a vehement supporter of my culinary adventures (and misadventures!). It is rare he has a firm idea of what he wants to eat on any given day as he is so obliging of whatever I dream up for the evening. One recipe he's made particular note of however is this chicken pot pie I've made a few times recently. It came about as a result of needing to use the seemingly endless supply of left-over turkey from Thanksgiving. Who knew a 15lb turkey for 5 people would be a bit excessive? On the plus side, it's leftovers were the root cause for this recipe so I'd consider it an overwhelming success.

I mean, who doesn't love pot pie? Pot pie is the ultimate of comfort foods and the surest way to blow your diet faster than you can say 7am spin class. However, this one is an incredible exception. It has the perfect biscuit to sauce ratio and is loaded with tons of veggies and white meat chicken or turkey. This would also be just as good if made without any meat at all.

This recipe looks like it has a lot of ingredients but it doesn't take too long to throw together and you can really add whatever you happen to have in your fridge that needs to be used. It makes a ton so you also won't be worrying about what to eat for lunch tomorrow.

Happy Winter! Enjoy!

Post-Skiing Chicken Pot Pie
As adapted from Food Network


2 large or 3 small boneless, skinless chicken breasts - cooked (grilled, roasted, left-over, whatever you feel like really) and chopped into bite-size pieces

2 tbsp canola oil
1 medium onion - chopped
2 carrots (or large handful of baby carrots) - chopped
2-3 celery stalks - chopped
1 large handful green beans - 
trimmed and chopped into bite-size pieces
3 cloves garlic - minced
2/3 cup frozen corn (defrosted)
2/3 cup frozen peas (defrosted)
1 tbsp fresh oregano - chopped
2 tsp dried thyme
1 cup low-sodium chicken or vegetable stock 
1/4 cup flour (whole-wheat or apf)
2 cups milk

s&p to taste

Biscuit Topping:
3/4 c whole-wheat flour
1/3 c all-purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
5 tbsp cold, unsalted butter
3 tbsp canola oil
3/4 c buttermilk (I use skim milk and add juice of 1/2 lemon, let sit for 15 minutes)

Heat oven to 375F.

In large skillet over medium heat, heat canola oil and saute onion, carrot, celery and garlic until soften. Add green beans, oregano, thyme and s&p to taste. Cook for 2-3 more minutes. Add milk and stir.

In a small bowl or glass measuring cup, combine flour and stock until combined. Add to filling mixture. Stir occasionally until it comes to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and add peas and corn. Cook for 2 more minutes. Add chicken. Again, adjust s&p to taste. Pour filling into baking dish - I use a 9x9 pyrex glass dish.

Combine whole wheat flour, apf, baking powder, baking soda and salt in food processor. Pulse until combined. Add butter and pulse until combined and pea sized pieces form. Add buttermilk and pulse just until combined. Add canola oil and pulse until combined. As always, do not over mix!

Spoon biscuit batter on top of filling and spread out evenly.

Place in oven and bake for 25-30 minutes or until biscuit topping is a nice golden brown colour and sounds a bit hollow when you tap on it.

Serves four to six.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Perfect (and Gluten Free!) Pumpkin Cake

A few days ago I was invited to a girls pizza night. Being new in town, it's invitations such as these which are so incredibly kind and helpful. It was tough being the new kid in elementary school and it's tough as an adult. Even so, it's such kindness which makes the transition a bit easier and as a whole, one can never have too many nights which involve wine and pizza with new friends.

I saw in the email string that a few of the ladies were either gluten sensitive or had Celiac disease. Having volunteered to bring desert and knowing essentially nothing about how to accomodate these dietary conditions, I googled my ass off. I decided to adapt a pumpkin cake recipe I knew to be outstanding into an equally delicious gluten free desert.

You know those people that have you try a cookie, bread, or whatever that is 'all natural', 'vegan', or 'made with unpasturized unicorn tears' and insist it tastes 'exactly the same!' when in actuality it tastes nothing like the original and is entirely terrible? Yeah, this is not one of those recipes.

Whole wheat flour was substituted with oat flour (ie: oats pulverized in the magic bullet) and baking powder made at home (two parts cream of tartar, one part baking soda) as most sold in stores has corn starch added as a dehydrating agent.

What this amounts to is an incredible moist, spiced and perfectly pumpkin-y autumn cake that can be enjoyed by everyone. I added a simple maple glaze to the top but in all honesty, it's perfect just on its own. Enjoy!

Perfect Pumpkin Cake

2 c whole wheat or oat flour
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp nutmeg
3 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
11/2 c sugar
1/2 c canola oil
3/4 c unsweetened applesauce
2 c pure pumpkin
1 tsp vanilla
4 eggs
1 c chopped walnuts

Heat oven to 350F. Grease and flour a bundt cake pan.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

In a large bowl, combine sugar, oil and applesauce until smooth. Mix in pumpkin and vanilla. Add each egg one at a time. Gradually add the flour mixture just until combined. Stir in walnuts. As always, do not overmix!

Place batter into bundt cake pan and bake for approximately one hour until toothpick comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool before removing from pan.

Other Notes re: Oats as a Gluten Free Substitute:

Oats and oat flour are an excellent substitute in baking as they are naturally gluten free. However, for those with Celiac disease or whom are particularly gluten sensitive, oats are often contaminated with gluten as a result of sharing similar processing facilities as flour, its gluten laden cousin. There are a few companies which process oats in a guaranteed gluten free environment like Cream Hill Estates in Quebec which should be used for those with particularly sensitive gluten intolerance.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Home Sweet Home Salad Rolls & Peanut Sauce

I know I haven't been updating the blog, like at all, in well, kind of forever. But, I promise I have a valid excuse and here is the long and the short of it.

I ended up making the treck out west to Kelowna, BC (I know, I hadn't really ever heard of it either) with just me, the puppy dog, all our worldly possessions, and five bikes on the outside of the car. After 7 days, 51 hours of driving, 9 states, two provinces, three timezones, a bazillion tanks of gas, a bazillion and one diet-cokes, two apocalypse like thunderstorms (shockingly, bikes have a tendency to act like sails on a car - see photo), one stop in Forsyth, Montana (population 1,944) to escape said thunderstorm (Reese-puppy was clearly traumatized), 2.5 unabridged audio books, one memorial service and at last we arrived (and a map for reference).

Kelowna however, is awesome and worth the drive and then some. Like PB&J or cheese with a side of cheese, mountains and lakes are the perfect pairing. And the wine? Ohhhhhh the wine..... I haven't tried to count all the wineries around here but lets just say it would be a lofty goal to visit all of them within the next calendar year.... a goal I am more than willing to strive for.

In the past few weeks I've been running around like a mad person trying to unpack, organize, and accumulate items like coffee mugs, soap dispensers, and seating options that don't involve the floor. New kitchen knives were also on the list (insert angels singing here) and I am the proud new owner of Messermeisters....some damn sexy knives.

While I've been cooking up a storm lately, I've been entirely neglectful of documenting any of it. Last night the mood struck and I thought I should share the most revolutionary trick.

You know those salad roll things that are way overpriced but are so tasty that you buy them anyway? I've always loved them and their obsessively tasty peanut sauce but I have struggled to figure out how to use rice paper without it turning into a ball of rice paper hell. The secret.... it's mind blowing..... ready?...... paper towels. Take a few paper towels, get them wet, ring them out most of the way but make sure they are still fairly damp. Unfold them on a plate and rice-paper-hell no more.

So here is a delicious, easy rendition of salad rolls and awesome peanut sauce.... for which I may or may not have eaten some with a spoon and licked the bowl..... dont judge me....

Salad Rolls & Peanut Sauce

Salad Rolls & Filling:
Rice Paper - 6 sheets
1 Large Avocado - sliced
1/2 Cucumber - sliced
Bean Sprouts
1/2 package Medium-Hard Tofu - sliced
Other filling options:
Cabbage, carrots, scallions, chopped peanuts, shrimp, chicken, etc.

Peanut Sauce:

1/4 c rice wine vinegar
3 tbsp chunky peanut butter 
(I use the 'Just Peanuts' kind and it's awesome)
1 tsp sriracha (adjust for personal heat preference)
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp - 1 tbsp cilantro (adjust to preference) - chopped 
1 tbsp ginger - finely chopped
1 tbsp basil - finely chopped
juice of 1/2 lemon

In a small bowl, combine all peanut sauce ingredients and adjust to taste.

In a medium sized skilled, heat 1'' of water until fairly warm but still comfortable to the touch. 

Place wet paper towels onto plate.


Place one rice paper sheet into warm water, pressing down with spatula to make sure it is entirely covered. 

After about 30 seconds (or so), it will soften and begin to resemble a jellyfish like consistency. 

With the spatula, gently lift the paper out of the water and tilt it from side to side to drain the excess water (it's ok if it folds up on itself, we'll fix that in a minute). 

Place the paper onto the wet paper towels and using your hands, gently unfold it such that resumes it's circular shape. 

Now, place whatever filling you want in a rectangle in the centre (don't overfill or it gets a bit tricky to fold). 

*To those who have ever seen a burrito filled and rolled, this is exactly the same. 

Fold the short sides over the filling. Take one of the remaining long sides and fold over the filling. Tucking the filling in and pulling so the paper is tight, roll towards the remaining side of paper. Ta-da, you now have totally pro salad wraps!  

Serves 2 - Enjoy!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Ferris Bueller & Pasta Salad

I heard something a few weeks ago - days are long, years are short. I can't begin to describe how true these words ring to me right now. In the middle of this year, I felt it would never end. Getting to May seemed like the equivalent of completing a maraton by somersaulting. But all of a sudden, WHAM (insert other onomatopoeia here), we are here and I can't tell you where on earth the time has gone. Geoff finished his oral exam in Ottawa on Wednesday, I am working on final revisions for the last of my graduate course work, in t-minus 20 minutes we are driving down to North Carolina for a two week beach vacation and then the rest of our lives will be upon us. 

If someone would have told me two years ago that I would now be living in Canada, working on a start-up business, hunkering down and becoming a cooking machine to help Geoff get through the exam of his life, I would never have believed it. But one serendipitous trip to Target 18 months ago changed everything when I spied a hot guy perusing the veggies. 

I wont lie and say this year has been a cake walk, because it hasn't been. It has been tough, and tough in different ways than I expected. Yet, we have reached the end with our skin a little thicker, blood pressure a few points higher, and Vitamin D levels depleted from being moles in our apartment for the better part of 10 months. But now.... the hard work can be put behind us by a few minutes and the highlighter in hand will be replaced with a margarita.

So.....In the iconic words of Ferris Bueller -

Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it. 

For the next two weeks there will be no Rosens and no studying. Days will instead revolve around copious quantities of seafood, hot tubs, kiteboarding, friends, family and uninterrupted time to remind us that the reason we work so hard is to be able to plan ridiculously awesome trips like these and appreciate them entirely. 

To leave with one final recipe before hopping in the car is a summer pasta salad from 101Cookbooks. I make this constantly in summer and will undoubtedly be making it this week as we will be cooking for a house of 14! I tweaked the original a bit and always make a double batch (which I would recommend as it keeps great in the fridge). 

Happy official summer everyone and I'll catch ya on the flip side...

Summer Orzo Salad
(Double Batch Recipe)

1/2 c sun-dried tomatoes - chopped
4 cloves garlic - minced
1/3 c evoo
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
juice one lemon
s&p to taste

1 cucumber - sliced into 1/2 inch half moons
1 bunch asparagus - chopped into 1'' sized pieces
1 large head broccoli - chopped into little trees
1 avocado - sliced
2 c dried orzo pasta
3/4 c (ish) feta cheese

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt generously and boil the orzo per package instructions. Avoid over-boiling, you want your orzo to be cooked through, but maintain structure. About 30 seconds before the orzo is finished cooking, stir the asparagus and broccoli into the orzo pot. Cook for the final 30 seconds, drain and run under a bit of cold water.

In the meantime, whisk together the garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, vinegar, sun-dried tomatoes and s&p to taste. Set aside.When you are ready to serve the salad toss the orzo, asparagus, broccoli, and cilantro with about half the dressing. Add cucumber, avocado, and feta and toss with remainder of dressing, or to taste. Serve warm or cold and soak up the summer.

Serves 6.