Slowly catching up

Once again, things have been rather silent on the blog front. Our excuses aren’t interesting, so suffice to say we’ve had a busy winter so far, and there’s more to come.

We hit a milestone in November, when I went away for work for 6 nights. It was a long time for everyone, but we all survived. I really enjoyed my time in Montreal, despite missing the family a lot. From a cultural perspective I could have done without the night in Whitby, but it was important for work and they were the ones footing the bill.

Sign on a building in Montreal, warning of falling ice and snow. It made me laugh.

Sign on a building in Montreal, warning of falling ice and snow. It made me laugh.

December was full of choir rehearsals and concerts, a trip to Victoria, norovirus for all, and Christmas in Surrey. Other than the norovirus, it was fun! The time between Christmas and New Year’s was especially relaxing – we hadn’t made any travel plans, and just enjoyed chilling out at home, playing at the park, singing endless rounds of Skip to My Lou, building with Duplo and making elaborate recipes with playdough.

Uncle Jeremy gave Miles a new Duplo set, which has seen hours of play!

Uncle Jeremy gave Miles a new Duplo set, which has seen hours of play!

We celebrated the arrival of 2014 by hosting a small party, which worked out really well. It meant that we both got to get in on the fun without imposing on any friends or relatives to babysit. Miles got to enjoy the party too, and was so cooperative about going to bed that we might just have to host more parties!

We also received some great news from our new landlords in early January. We’d been concerned ever since our house went on the market back in July that whoever bought it would want to strip it down to the studs, do a major renovation and convert it to strata-titled suites (the norm in this neighbourhood). However, the new owners took possession on January 1 and let us know less than a week later that they have no intention of doing so and would like us to stay (and no rent increase, either!).  We’re feeling more confident now that we might be able to stay put until Mr. Chumsley graduates and only move when the job market dictates.

Unfortunately the good news on the housing front ended shortly after that happy discovery, when we woke up to discover that our entire lower floor had flooded. It wasn’t just a bit damp; there was standing water above the carpet in Miles’s bedroom. We had to have all our bedroom furniture and belongings moved out and put into storage immediately so the restoration work could get started, so we packed up some suitcases and moved upstairs. We’re lucky that we have the upper floor with our main living area and spare bedroom, since it means we get to be in our own space instead of hotel or short-term rental, although the novelty of camping out is wearing thin now that we’re 3 weeks in.  Miles has been a total trooper, but we’re all getting pretty tired of it. The worst was probably the industrial fans and dehumidifiers that ran all day and all night for about 10 days.  Now that the fans are gone and the drywall repairs are underway, every surface (even upstairs) is covered in drywall dust, which is also not my idea of a good time. The next steps are painting and the installation of new carpet.  We’re hoping to go visit Granny when the carpet goes in, so we can have a bit of a break and avoid the worst of the carpet fumes.

We’ve consciously been trying to have more treats and do more fun things since the flood to balance things out.  We’ve been to two birthday parties, had ice cream, done lots of baking, and gone out for dinner a few times.

What does it mean when your kid starts talking about "our usual restaurant"? This night we had a special treat of chocolate milkshake that was greatly enjoyed by all.

What does it mean when your kid starts talking about “our usual restaurant”? This night we shared a chocolate milkshake that was greatly enjoyed by all.

We’ve also been making lots of favourite of dinners at home. This particular recipe was a winner with everyone, and I thought it was worth sharing.

Not-over-the-top Cassoulet

Adapted from Curtis Stone, What’s for Dinner?

Some cassoulet recipes really go all out with duck confit, sausages AND bacon, and can take a day or more to slowly cook. While those versions are delicious, they are a bit beyond our style of everyday cooking. This version still has amazing flavour, and while it’s not quite fast enough for a weekday dinner, it works nicely on a Sunday and makes leftovers for a weekday.

  • 4 whole chicken legs (thighs and drumsticks)
  • Drizzle of olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 6 slices of bacon
  • ½ yellow onion
  • 1 fennel bulb
  • 3 carrots
  • 2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 Tbsp fresh rosemary (or 1 tsp dried)
  • 1 Tbsp fresh thyme (or 1 tsp dried)
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 19 oz can white beans, drained and rinsed
  • ½ cup panko bread crumbs
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375F. Place chicken on rimmed baking sheet and rub with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake for about 40 minutes, until golden brown and mostly cooked.

Meanwhile, coarsely chop bacon and cook in a large frying pan over medium heat until crisp. Spoon off about half of the fat and discard. While the bacon is cooking, finely chop the onion, and chop the fennel bulb and carrots into ½ inch pieces.  Add the onion to the pan with the bacon. Cook about 5 minutes or until onion is soft, and then add the fennel bulb and carrots to the pan. Cook another 5 minutes. While the veggies are cooking, pound the fennel seeds in a mortar and pestle or grind in a spice grinder. Add fennel seeds along with the rosemary, thyme and garlic to the mixture in the pan and cook about 2 minutes. Add the stock and beans and simmer a few minutes. I found this series of steps took about as long as roasting the chicken, so I just kept simmering the beans until the chicken was done.

Move the bean mixture to a 9×13 baking dish and nestle the chicken pieces into it.

Mix the panko and parmesan in a bowl, and then sprinkle over the plan, placing most of the crumbs on the beans, and just a bit on each chicken leg.

Bake at 375 for another 30 min until most of the liquid is gone and the top is crisp and brown. Let stand a few minutes and then serve and devour!

Some kids might take to this better if you separate out little piles of beans, carrots and fennel pieces, with cut up chicken on the side. Miles did OK with the bean mixture being all combined, although we did notice him high-grading out the bacon. Who can blame him?!

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One Response to Slowly catching up

  1. Karen says:

    The cassoulet sounds delicious! I will have to try it. I love one-pot meals. Glad to hear you’ve been having a good winter, other than the flood and norovirus. Ours has been good too, even if it passed in a blur. It’s been wonderful having my parents so close.
    We are thinking of you often!

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